Mosaic is delighted to announce our Hero of the Month for July 2015 is Aleema Brister.
This award is in recognition of Aleema’s five years of outstanding work in Mosaic’s Primary School Programme.
Aleema has mentored at Laurance Haines Primary School in Watford and Childs Hill Primary in Childs Hill, London. She has also encouraged local secondary school, Francis Combe Academy, to join the Mosaic Enterprise Challenge competition and hopes to get involved in the Secondary School Mentoring Programme there in the near future.
What motivated you to want to become a mentor?
My parents come from extremely poor backgrounds but have improved their lives hugely by educating and training themselves. They encouraged my siblings and myself to do the same. I am keen to motivate others who may not realise what the benefits of education and training are, or who may think that they are unattainable goals.
Please tell us about a particular rewarding or special experience you have had as a mentor?
After about six sessions on one programme we asked the children to stand in front of their peers and tell us all one thing they had learned so far. A shy and very softly spoken girl stood up and told us loudly “women can do anything men can do!” This was not something we had said. She explained that she had reached this conclusion from meeting us and from the discussions we had had so far.
What have you learned from your time as a mentor?
I’ve learned so many things. I have learned that there is no single way to build rapport with any given child; it may be games or role play or asking the child to present or just letting them talk.
What have you found challenging about mentoring?
Sometimes there are children whom we see for many sessions before they engage with us as mentors. Often these are the children who, their teacher will tell us, are thought to be most in need of a chance to refocus on their own goals, and who may have behavioural issues at school. Usually, by channelling extra attention towards such children, and with the help of their teacher, one can break through eventually.
And what do you do when you’re not volunteering?
I work part-time as an A&E doctor in North London. I am working with my husband to help set up a hospital in the Sinai (Egypt) where there is very limited medical provision for the local population, particularly Bedouins. I have three sons aged 7, 10 and 12 years, who easily occupy the rest of my time.
Would you recommend being a Mosaic mentor to others?
I do so all the time! I have recruited mentors to the programme in Watford and will certainly continue to recommend this work to others.
What makes a good mentor?
In any mentor group, I have found that it is vital to have a variety of backgrounds, experiences and personalities, in order to have the best chance of communicating successfully with the children. In my view, anyone who is willing to give something of themselves to the children and is keen to listen to the reactions and answer the questions that result, can be a good mentor.
How do you feel about receiving the Hero of the Month Award?
I really don’t think I deserve it at all! I’ve given very little of my time, compared with others I’ve heard about. Despite this, I am delighted because it makes me feel even more a part of the Mosaic team.
If there was only one piece of advice you could give to a young person to achieve success, what would that be?
Failure is a normal part of achieving success. If we fail, or experience rejection, it’s because we are trying hard to do something that is challenging for us and/or for those around us. Failing is very unpleasant but we can get beyond it and then go on to achieve something worthwhile. The person who can deal with failure is in a very strong position.