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Grassroots Peacebuilding Mentors, facilitators, and staff posing outside for photo

Once a Mentor, Always a Mentor

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The Grassroots Peacebuilding Mentors Program Midterm Workshop held at Malagos Gardens Resort, Davao City, from October 22 to 24, 2022, was a very enriching experience for me and my seven other co-participants. Together with our competent facilitators, Ashok and Florina Xavier, we journeyed to discover ourselves and each other. Mentoring involves several principles in order for it to be effective. Here are some principles taken from reflections of our joint experiences together.

Gail Galang with other participant holding ball during an activityThough we came from different work backgrounds, not to mention different provinces, we realized that we had common challenges over the pandemic. In an activity, we were asked to discuss how we have adjusted to the pandemic. Here we talked about our individual experiences and the skills we have learned in the process. We realized that this exercise is important to stay connected with our mentee. During the pandemic, we checked in on our mentees, offered guidance and provided support when asked. More than this, we listened reflectively. Thus, Principle #1: Good mentors are those who can empathize with their mentees.

Being in a beautiful place, we did a lot of experiential activities, like nature walks. It was here where we realized the many gifts we have been receiving daily from a Supreme Being, though at times, we are just too busy to acknowledge them. Going back to the group, we realized that just like nature, everything has a purpose, Thus, Principle #2: Good mentors see the sacredness in their mentees. Our mentees have gifts that will bring glory to those they serve, and it is our task as mentors to help them see their light. 

Realizing that we are all unique, mentors have their own ways of relating to their mentees. According to our facilitators, the different mentoring styles are Letting Go, Active Listening, Advising, Prescribing, and Cooperating. While ideally, it would be good to eventually “let go” of your mentees, a mentor should still be there to actively listen and offer advice as needed. As a group we realized that offering help, although very altruistic, may not always be what is needed. Thus, Principle #3: Good mentors are able to discern what is appropriate to use from their mentoring tool box. 

I think one of the most enjoyed activities that strengthened our bond as mentors was the “Rope of Hope.” During the activity, we crossed the little river with full trust in our buddies. We learned that we could rely on each other for support and that our genuine concern for each other will naturally want us to offer help at any time. It was a very thrilling activity while getting our feet wet. We really felt like it was a survival quest, but we were unafraid because we had each other. So, Principle #4: Good mentors know when to give help and ask for help. By helping others, we emerge strong collectively. 

Another important thing that was highlighted in our workshop was the need for self-care. Some examples of self-care that were mentioned by our group were: 1) to unplug or to wean ourselves from too much social media; 2) have clear work and home boundaries, realizing that we have other important roles to play and among them is being a parent, a child, or a sibling to others; and 3) to keep on learning means creating the space for learning something new or looking at the same things with a beginner’s mind. This is a habit shared by very successful people. This leads to Principle #5: Good mentors create the space for self-care so they can care more for their mentees.

I can simply continue adding principles to this list, but of course, others will have a different take on what they would consider to be good mentoring. For me, mentoring is a relationship characterized by shepherding another person/s towards a desired destination that is meaningful to both the mentor and the mentee. 

Truly, this experience has affected each one of us at all levels. It has highlighted the importance of kindness, peace, and the value of doing no harm to others and to nature. It has demonstrated empathy, mindfulness, and compassion, so much so that after this experience, some of us were not too eager to return to “reality.” To be a mentor means that you are already in that life stage of wanting to give back to others in exchange for all the blessings received. 

Indeed, the days spent with Joel, Zhar, Anna Luna, Paolo, Brosh, Jen, Sherina, Florina, Ashok, and the entire MPI organizing team: Chris, Marlies, Anna, and Nur will keep a smile in our hearts. Though we have gone our separate ways, we are held by a common experience and thought that “Once a mentor, Always a mentor.”

Gail Reyes Galang, Ph.D. is chair of the Family Studies program at Miriam College, where she also teaches under the Department of Psychology. She is the associate director of the Center for Peace Education.