THEY called the experience “life-changing” and said the programme left them with unforgettable memories and a strong bond with their mentees.
The experience in question is a child development programme, known as Footprints, where mentors are matched with mentees between the ages of nine and 12 with the view to guide them into becoming good citizens.
The latest 10-month programme involved 23 mentors, mainly staff of the QI Group of Companies and independent representatives of QNET, the group’s direct-selling subsidiary, and 21 mentees comprising underprivileged children from Selayang Community Centre, Rumah Kasih and the Agathians Shelter.
Held aboard a cruise ship at the picturesque Putrajaya lakeside, the Footprints Testimonial Day was the third episode of the Footprints mentoring programme which was inaugurated in 2009 and developed by Vijayaratnam Foundation, the Malaysian chapter of Rythm Foundation, the QI Group’s global philanthropic arm.
“These children need a mentor to act as their role model, raise their self-esteem, help them communicate with more confidence and do better academically.
“Having a mentor has always proven to be a positive influence on these children,” said Vijayaratnam Foundation chairman Datin Umayal Eswaran.
Quoting activist Helen Adams Keller, she said, “The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves.”
Umayal, who mooted Footprints, said mentees learn from their mentors through experience — sharing, coaching and regular one-on-one interaction.
“Although many children have gained tremendously from Footprints, we must acknowledge that the mentors play a vital role in its success.
“There is much more work to be done and there is a long way to go. We have to make the change today to see a change tomorrow,” she said.
Echoing her comments was Henry Sandanam of Selayang Community Centre who said, “Footprints is not a one-day affair but a journey which touches and transforms the lives of the children. This concept should be emulated by other private organisations.”
Rumah Kasih chairman Florence Baptist urged the Vijayaratnam Foundation to continue the programme.
“The children of different races have gained much knowledge, friendship and love. They feel appreciated and inspired to become better people, besides having a strong bond of friendship with their mentors,” she said.
In closing the programmr, QI Group executive chairman and Vijayaratnam Foundation founder Datuk Seri Vijay Eswaran paid tribute to the mentors for their dedication and commitment, saying they were the architects in the lives of their mentees.
“As you grow up into adulthood, you will find that some aspects of your character may have been moulded by your mentor. And mentors, don’t forget that you too can learn a thing or two from your mentees.
“My own life has been shaped by the influence of various mentors beginning with my parents.
“Today, Footprints is a very powerful programme as it overcomes caste, colour or creed.
“It’s all about love, care and imbibing good values. Our future depends on this,” he said.
Earlier, the mentors were given awards, including Most Promising Mentor which went to QI staff Muqtadir Suwani while the overall winner was QNET independent representative Punitha Narayanan who was recognised as the Overall Best Mentor.