Samrah Jaffrey qualified as a solicitor 22 years ago and is currently a consultant for Duncan Lewis, leading on personal injury and clinical negligence matters. She is based in Watford.
Samrah has been a Mosaic mentor since April 2015, when she was introduced through a member of Mosaic’s London & South East Regional Leadership Group. She admits to signing up as a mentor on the Primary School programme “with some trepidation.”
She said: “Two factors influenced my decision to become a mentor with Mosaic. Firstly, my gratitude for my son’s education and knowing that not all children have such opportunities and support. Secondly, at 46 years of age, I thought it was about time I stepped out of my comfort zone and put myself out there to do something that challenged me personally.”
Samrah admits that, with her son now in his late teens, re-discovering how to interact with and encourage children of a younger age group was daunting initially but there were also important skills from her professional life that she could use and develop.
She explained: “I have always led teams of much younger people at work and have watched them develop and grow through my teaching and encouragement so I know I had skills which I could perhaps transfer to younger children. I always took education and professional aspirations for granted as that was the type of family I came from, but understanding that this was not always an accessible lifestyle, particularly for some young girls and their mothers, was an eye-opener for me and I wanted to help change that.”
Samrah first lent her support as a mentor to a group of Year 5 and 6 girls and their mothers at Ark Franklin Primary Academy in Kensal Rise. She recognised that the girls were thinking about going to high school and were at quite a critical juncture.
She said: “They were not the most confident and many had family issues such as abuse, parents in prison or with substance abuse issues, or had fled to the UK as refugees, meaning that they lacked confidence and self-belief. Many were not aware of themselves and their strengths or of the opportunities out there in the world of work or education that could be on offer to them. But when the programme finished it was wonderful to see how they had blossomed. The difference was profound and I loved every minute of it.”
Samrah was so inspired by her first mentoring experience that she has since gone on to mentor at Elsley Primary School in Wembley and Alban Wood Primary School in Watford.
She said: “We take a very supportive, empathetic and nurturing interest in the pupils and their mothers. We focus on what they say, we talk to them about basic things we take for granted, what it means to work hard, self-respect and the respect of others. We show them what it is to be a role model and the possibilities for success.”
“My tactics are laughter, focused interest in what they say, warm encouragement and sharing my story and that of my son, showing that I am not there to teach but to share what I did in case it can tell them something new and present a different way of doing things.”
Of the mentoring experience, Samrah said: “It is humbling and awe-inspiring to know that you have helped someone believe in themselves and want to do better. My outlook has changed to be more positive, more grateful for my own opportunities and to understand that we should never stop pushing ourselves or others to do our best. I am what I am because of the nurturing and aspirational background I came from, but not everyone is this lucky, and it is these people in particular that need and deserve our help.”
Samrah has channelled this passion by attending mentor recruitment events as the Mosaic network has expanded, speaking powerfully about her own experiences of the Primary School programme and encouraging a new generation of mentors to get involved where they can.
She intends to introduce her son to Mosaic and encourage him to be a mentor once he is old enough to take part. She said: “Mosaic is enriching my life and showing my son and I that we have so much more to be grateful for than we realise. I will encourage him to mentor for Mosaic also as soon as he can!”
Samrah added: “Mentoring for Mosaic will change your life. It will teach you things about yourself you never knew, it will help you see the world with new eyes and will give you such a glow after each session that you will not be able to stay away or stop doing it.”