Footprints and 40 pairs of eyes

|By Elsie Mungai|

The whole experience shaped and reshaped what I thought I knew about myself. Every time I stood in front of a class, I was looking into the rear-view mirror of my life. I asked myself a plethora of questions. Would I be listening and concentrating? Would I be writing down notes? Would I read and actualize what I learnt? If I was fortunate enough to receive this mentorship, would it have helped me?

The crux of the visit

Since joining  Community Outreach Programme (COP) earlier on this year, I had heard of mentoring work camps, but I had never envisioned myself going for one. Work camps are a practical and hands-on approach to mentoring work where we visit several high schools in one area and mentor the students over a period of one week or two. I heard about this specific camp from a couple of my friends from COP and got curious. An information search later, I was ready to risk it all and go for the camp. It ended up being one of the best decisions I have made this year, as it was in line with one of my unofficial new year’s resolutions, which was to take more risks.

On departure day, I was unsure of what to anticipate because I was going to a new town with a mix of people. Some of whom I had never met, some I had met twice or thrice before, and some I had been fortunate enough to meet regularly. Being an introvert, I did not expect to socialize as much as I did. The proverbial flower of my personality bloomed under the right conditions because the atmosphere created by everyone was just right.

The first day of mentoring was nerve-racking because I wondered what I would be telling the students for a whole day, having left that space only five years ago. I walked in on 40 pairs of eyes looking expectantly at me. It was evident that they were eagerly waiting for me to share something that would change their lives. I had a partner in class who laid the foundation for the day and left me to it. I was scared but eventually became thankful for it because I never would have gained confidence to do it on my own. By the time we had visited the third school out of ten, I had gotten the hang of it and even found myself looking forward to making even a small difference in the students’ lives. My confidence was growing.

On the flipside

What I enjoyed most was the intensely fulfilling conversations that we had over meals. An unspoken rule was that we needed to keep our phones away to ensure that there were no distractions. Permission was granted to focus on only two things: food and the conversations at hand. I was honoured to experience such a rich tapestry of opinions and insights that were exchanged over the din of forks and knives. We talked about everything under the sun; from careers to relationships to hypothetical situations. There was such a beautiful mix of personalities that came to help in the various activities we undertook as a team.

Weekends were spent getting in touch with our spiritual side and recharging our batteries.

The camp was a perfect getaway for me as I had needed to take a social media break and the daily programme allowed me to do so.

Souls were nourished, goals redirected and pasts revisited. Endless laughter was the order of the day and it took a load off the daily stress of the mentoring. I would trade nothing for this experience, and I am excited to attend many more of them.