The lessons a mentor learns Part 3

One objective of REYN is to increase diversity in the workforce. In a series of blogs, Flóra Bacsó of Partners Hungary Foundation, is sharing about her work to coach five Romani women to become kindergarten assistants. 

In her previous blog, Flóra began to share the story of her mentee Ilona who reached out to her after moving to a new flat and experiencing some difficult family situations. In this blog, Flóra details how she helped Ilona work through the situation, beginning with Flóra’s response to a panicked phone call from Ilona.

I felt that her trust in me is something to be used as a resource. We talked for a long time. I pointed out that she made a huge step forward by asking for help and that it’s not her fault that she felt overwhelmed and exhausted. I shared a personal story when I also needed external help and encouraged her to reach out to the psychologist working at the local social center. At the beginning of our conversation, she said that she was too ashamed to share her situation with anyone else. By the end, she agreed to inform her social worker and her superior at work. I helped her figure out how to tell them what was going on with her.

Making a Plan

The psychologist in the local social center offered her consultations free of charge and Ilona accepted. Her superior, upon learning about her situation, offered to put her on sick leave until she got better without any time limitations. Her social worker checked on her every day. I organised a support group meeting for all the experts involved with her: the social worker, the psychologist, the mentor in the other program and myself. My aim was to exchange information on who is providing what kind of support for Ilona, without breaching confidentiality, so that we all can work towards the same direction – providing effective support. For the second meeting, Ilona was invited as well so that she could voice her needs which helped us work not just for her but with her. Empowerment and partnership are key when working with deprived people: clients need to feel that they have control over their life and that they have the ability to overcome challenges. Luckily all the fellow professionals working with her agreed on this, so on our meetings we were really able to provide the support that Ilona needed. She did not feel ashamed anymore. Together, we devised an even more flexible plan.

After a few months of regularly attending sessions with her psychologist, she managed to tackle her panic attacks and go back to work. Together, she and her supervisor figured out working hours and a payment schedule that would work for her. She moved to another flat where she finally feels at home. She managed to get professional help regarding the conflict with her son.

Finding success by an alternative route

I am glad we managed to be flexible with our plans and so was Ilona.

“I am so grateful for this program and I really want to work with children on the long run. I am convinced that I can take my chance again when my smallest child gets a bit older. I am grateful for where I am now in my life. I am very thankful to you as my mentor who always had my back through the hard times, you always wanted to know how I was doing, you offered me acceptance and emotional support,” Ilona shared.

At the beginning of the programme, I thought that the programme would be successful if all the mentees found a job in a kindergarten. I would not have thought that success can have alternative faces. But, it was flexibility that helped me complete the important steps that we took together in this programme. It is a success that she feels home where she lives now. It is a success that she conquered her panic attacks. It is a success that she is able to reach out for regular professional support and receive it. It is success that she was able to agree on a workload that is more manageable.

I am grateful for the professional conversations that I had during supervision that helped me with flexibility. I can appreciate that I might not see the results that were originally set out by the programme because the positive experience of building a solid and trusting relationship with my mentee had an important impact on her life.

Being heard and seen and accepted can give hope and momentum to initiate changes in our lives, no matter where we start.

By Flóra Bacsó, Trainer and Mentor at Partners Hungary Foundation.