For Arundhati Gupta, working in the finance sector seemed to be her destiny. But her fate was not to be in the business of money.
Today, Arundhati is on a different high, empowering mentoring relationships between disadvantaged youth and committed volunteer mentors, that further the capabilities of youths to pursue their valued goals and dreams, through Mentor Together, an NGO which she co-founded.
Ask her, what inspired her to start such an organisation and she narrates, "I met Prof Rajeev Gowda of the IIM-B in 2007 during my last year in Mount Carmel College. He asked me to help him organise career exploration events in colleges around Bangalore. While doing these events, we saw the immense potential to do long term mentoring and the value it could add to young people's lives. A lot of adult-youth relationships can be very prescriptive and top-down. But mentoring is a more equal and two-way relationship where both mentors and mentees learn a lot from each other. After my graduation, while I enjoyed working in finance and studying it as well, I realised in a couple of years that I still found my experiences working with youth, the most empowering. So I decided to start the NGO."
Today, the organisation identifies socio-economically disadvantaged youths and provides them with much-needed mentorship.
NGOs like Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement helped in identifying some youths.
Many companies through various CSR activities helped identify some of mentors. Says Arundhati, "We want to make sure that the mentors are reliable and when CSR channel passes them on, we know that they are trustworthy people."
In Mentor Together, it is not compulsory that mentees have to come from NGOs, but Arundhati believes that it helps as these NGOs may have done the larger filtering of socially and economically deprived youths. The organisation caters to youth in the age group of 14 to 21 years. She said, "We also have many youths from various youth movements placed in youth shelters or institutions who must have lost their ties with families or who have been pursuing formal education but do not have enough support. Depending on their needs, we set up mentors."
According to Arundhati, what makes Mentor Together different from other coaching classes is that the ecosystem is built for longer connect. "Here, mentor-mentee module is about relationship building. It is a one on one relationship that they share. You spend time in an informal way and the emotional support is huge. Considering the mentors come from good backgrounds and have more access to opportunities, the youth are exposed to plethora of opportunities that they deserve," she says.
There is a strict selection process that mentors have to undergo before getting on board.
They have to face a basic application where information pertaining to their background and other questions are asked.
This is followed by a personal interview and a little more information about their engagement style is scrutinised. Lastly, it is followed by two reference checks - personal and professional.
The timing and meeting places of mentor and mentees are very flexible. Anboo, a mentor says, "I meet my mentee twice a week for one hour." It is not always intellectual topics , there are fun moments as well that mentees share with their mentors.
Vandana, a mentor had been to the flower show in Lalbagh with her mentee. Similarly Vishwanathan goes out for a coffee break with his mentee.
Vandana says, "My mentee is very cooperative and we never had any tough time adapting to each other." But not all are as lucky. Uday Shankar had a tough time in bringing his mentee's concentration towards studies from cricket.