At first glance, 21 year-old Sumaiya and her 66-year old mentor, Usha, have little in common. However their mentor-mentee relationship facilitated by Mentor Together, an Indian NGO supported by prominent diamond manufacturer Rosy Blue, has blossomed into a fruitful partnership that have brought the pair close, while preparing Sumaiya for a lifetime of success.
Born to a family of six children who live in a run down settlement in sprawling Mumbai, Sumaiya has not had an easy life. With her father, a former taxi technician, unable to work due to a heart condition, Simaiya’s younger brother is the family’s sole earner. He works at a mall, earning 7,000 rupees per month—the equivalent of roughly $100.
A withdrawn child who has difficulty communicating, Sumaiya has struggled with behavioral issues. Setting career goals and earning money for her education has been a challenge. Sumaiya is not alone; she is one of 176 million young people in India in need of care and protection, by government estimates.
Such statistics highlight the importance of organizations that empower young people, such as Mentor Together. The organization matched young Sumaiya with Usha, a former computer teacher who dedicated her life to helping children in need. In addition to mentoring, she runs a vocational training program for underprivileged girls, and has founded a school for mentally challenged children in central India. Needless to say, supporting young people is her life’s passion, not merely a passing interest.
During bi-weekly mentoring sessions, they work on strategies to help Sumaiya manage her time, plan for the future and cope with stress and anger. Using a gentle approach, Usha helps her mentee gain confidence to overcome challenges, often sharing examples from her own life that demonstrate how she was able to successfully change her own negative behavior.
Founded by Arundhuti Gupta and Rajeev Gowda in 2009, Mentor Together is dedicated to empowering youths in need, pairing them with dedicated and accomplished mentors who work with them regularly over time.
Mentor Together would not be able to maintain its impressive Mumbai operations without the support of the Rosy Blue Foundation, the philanthropic arm of leading diamond manufacturer Rosy Blue. In 2014, the company contacted Mentor Together, asking if they would consider opening a chapter in Mumbai, a city of over 11 million that is riddled with inequality. “Mumbai had been a city we wanted to consider for mentorship for sometime, so we came up with a proposal,” explained founder Arundhuti Gupta.
The financial support provided by Rosy Blue Group has allowed the Mentor together to build a strong staff and finance training and curriculum costs. “They also have helped us spread the word about mentorship within their company to identify mentors,” adds Gupta.
Given the diamond community’s strong presence in Mumbai, Gupta lauds Rosy Blue’s dedication to giving back to the city. “Rosy Blue is built on great values of integrity, excellence and service,” she said. “Giving back to the community through financial and in-kind service is an important piece of their legacy.”
In Mentor Together’s unique model, mentors help their partners learn life skills such as time management, perseverance and motivation that have been shown to positively affect economic and behavioral outcomes of young people. The partnership also gives mentees valuable access to mentors’ wide social networks, which can help them achieve upward social mobility that would otherwise be all but impossible within India’s rigid social structure.
Sumaiya and Usha were introduced with the help of Magic Bus, a partner of Mentor Together. Sumaiya is part of Magic Bus’ childhood to livelihood program, which equipped her with a variety of essential life skills that will give her better chances of having a successful adult life. Kusum, the Head of the Livelihood program at the organization said the partnership between the organizations enables them to connect youth like Sumaiya “to mentors who will, in addition to the skills and knowledge we provide, also provide one-on-one mentorship.”
Thanks to the support of Usha and Mentor Together, Sumaiya is doing better than ever. She is now taking jobs to save for her education and has improved both her verbal and non-verbal communication skills. She recently demanded payment for a job she had undertaken, despite the employer’s attempts to delay it. Such assertiveness and self-confidence did not exist before her regular meetings with Usha.
Thanks to the help of Mentor Together and Rosy Blue, Sumaiya now has the chance to succeed in life, contributing to the creation of a more equitable society.