Feel Good Friday: Sally's Story
Our charity, the Young Hearts Project, was created with the purpose of changing the lives of kiwis. Our donation programme, that sees $5 from every pair of full-price Deuce sneakers sold go towards the Young Hearts Project is put towards some awesome initiatives, including the MATES programme, run through Great Potentials.
The MATES programmes purpose is to help young kiwis to reach their full potential, achieved in personal mentoring programmes. Today, we speak to MATES mentor Sally, to hear her story about her involvement in MATES.
A desire to help
"In my second year at university, I changed my major to psychology purely because I found the content interesting. But as I learned more, I felt called to help people."
"With the ever-diversifying population of New Zealand, empathy and cultural competency were two highlighted aspects in psychology. I thought I was knowledgeable and would have no problems with this, having grown up in a Kiwi culture at school and Korean culture at home."
A Shore girl in South Auckland
"Prior to MATES, I wasn’t a person who liked children. I didn’t dislike them, but it never occurred to me to work with them voluntarily. When I saw adolescents, I saw entitled troublemakers going through puberty. I also can’t say I have a diverse group of friends. I grew up with fellow second-generation Asians on the North Shore, so I was a little naïve about what other parts of Auckland were like, what different communities reside there and what qualities and values each culture held dear as part of our city."
"Everything changed when I met my first mentee. The first time I set foot in a school in South Auckland, I thought I was prepared to tutor these kids. I was there to help them excel academically in their math and english. But I was worried about how I would connect with them. I had gone in with a certain perspective of what adolescents are like, and sadly, some negative stereotypes of what South Auckland was like, too."
Embracing our cultures
"When I arrived, two vivacious Tongan girls welcomed me as their own, and in the weeks that followed, they taught me cultural competency and widened my perspective of what adolescents are really like. As much as I intended to help these mentees, and did help them improve their grades, there is more that they did for me in the span of the first 30 minutes than I can take credit for in that one year. "
"Their openness, warmth and genuine interest in getting to know me had me taken aback. Despite my appearance and ‘North Shore’ way of talking, they welcomed me with open arms. They told me about their families and heritage. They helped me see a glimpse of their world; their cultures and lives. It was a two-way conversation of curiosity and respect for our cultures."
Auckland's hidden gems
"It is easy to fall into the trap of labelling adolescents as troublemakers and define them by their socioeconomic status, but they are Auckland’s hidden gems. My mentees helped me to see how they didn’t fit any of my stereotypes; the love and support from their families and communities helped them to be amazing young women."
"It was my mentees who taught me what cultural competency was. Auckland’s youth are awesome and have much to impart onto us about their cultures and perspectives as young people. As much as I had to offer to widen my mentees’ academic horizons, these young girls did the same for my cultural horizons."
A new path
"My mentees and the MATES programme helped redefine my career and life goals. I know for a fact that I want to further my education, so I am even better equipped to work with the brilliant young people that are the future of this country. I wanted to join the MATES programme, supported by the Young Hearts Project, to help smoothen the transition of young people into what they want to achieve in the future."
"What I had never imagined, was that I would be taught what true cultural competency was, by a pair of young Tongan girls. If you are privileged to work alongside the youth of New Zealand, listen to what they have to impart - they may surprise you."
Sally’s story is one of many testimonies that give a glimpse into the awesome work of the Young Hearts Project. Remember when buying any full-price pair of Deuce sneakers, $5 per sale goes towards these projects and changing the lives of our kiwi kids.