Last week, SAYes held its first networking ‘mixer’. I found it to be such a worthwhile event and I know I wasn’t alone – less than halfway through the evening, SAYes Co‑Founder and Executive Director, Michelle Potter, told me that based on the positive response, they plan to hold another networking event later in the year.
The idea behind the evening was for mentors to meet each other and share their experiences over a glass (or two) of wine and appetisers…and share we did. While the monthly workshops are helpful in providing structure and context for our roles as mentors, they aren’t the best place to speak openly with other mentors about our individual experiences for a couple of reasons: a) our mentees are with us and b) no one wants to admit to being scared they’re doing it wrong.
Over the course of the evening, I heard mentors speak about the wonderful relationships they’d forged, the goals they’d already met and the different interests they’d explored with their mentees. I also heard from frustrated mentors who had expected things to be easier with their mentees. But what was interesting is that those mentors who were frustrated didn’t feel they were making progress; they felt they were doing something wrong, like they were failing. Some were even embarrassed. I think we tend to assume that if we aren’t summiting mountains, our year isn’t a worthwhile one. But when Michelle ushered us into another room and gave us a five‑minute presentation on why SAYes needs the help of current mentors to recruit new mentors, I realised that we’re actually doing much more as mentors than we think. The room went silent when the first slide went up. It said that this year, SAYes had to turn away 50 young people who requested mentors. Each young person who is part of the SAYes programme makes a decision to request a SAYes mentor in their life. That’s it. They want you. And this year, they had to turn away 50 of those interested youth. When I heard that, I lost my breath.
Here’s the amazing thing about SAYes: Its vision is achievable. Its goals aren’t too lofty. 2000 young people are living in care who are at a transitional age in South Africa. That number isn’t astronomical; It’s manageable. Just over 300 of those youth live in the Western Cape. If, as current mentors, we each bring in a new mentor next year, we would be serving
two‑thirds of the Western Cape. Rolling the SAYes plan out nationally is possible. SAYes is a growing organisation that listens to its volunteers’ feedback. I hope more mentors will come to the next mixer because it’s time for us to start realising we are making a difference.
Thanks for reading,