Luis Jimbo is the executive director of the Angolan Institute of Electoral Systems and Democracy (IASED). He is also dedicated to youth leadership and regularly volunteers his time to be a mentor to at-risk youth groups. He spoke with us about his experiences volunteering and guiding youth.
I grew up with my grandmother, and because of the war, I saw my father for the first time when I was 25 years old. I can describe situations in my life of how my grandmother and mother were hard and loving with me and how it built in me the spirit of justice, about how they sacrificed for work, and other principles that they instilled in me. I can immediately affirm my grandmother as a mentor at one stage of my life, but I cannot describe her as a leader necessarily because I cannot describe a great social achievement like Nelson Mandela or Obama. But others say that I am the great accomplishment as a result of her dedication. My life makes me understand the differences between the two more clearly, and I pass this on to my mentees. When I talk to my students, I notice that everyone describes the leader they most admire or follow as a family member, a parent or a mother. They realize what the differences are between leader and mentor – what they already have and what they need in their lives, and what inspires them to seek and share their values and principles of life.
Leaders versus mentors
There is a difference between the roles of mentors and leaders in our lives. Usually a leader we know is someone we admire, but not necessarily someone whom we identify with as having the same principles or values as us. A mentor is the person who shows in their day-to-day life the courage to do what the followers are afraid of doing or who are unaware of how to do it; they are someone who shares the same principles and values with us and guides us to practice them in our daily lives. This person can be someone in your family, at work or in society. In essence, a mentor is always a leader, but a leader is not necessarily a mentor.
Inspiration to volunteer and mentor youth
Volunteering and mentoring youth is the way I can give back to people. I grew up with my grandmother as a role model, and I get support from everyone in my life, like family, neighbors, friends and colleagues. Also, as a mentor I am learning and sharing, which makes my life fulfilling. As a personal duty, I started mentoring in 1994, when I become conscious about leadership during my time as a representative of the young local movements for peace and association. Then in 2014 I started mentoring using the workbook I developed.
Methods for mentoring
In my mother tongue of Umbundo there is a proverb that says: “The front is the way you are going, but it may not be the view you see in front of you.” I transform this metaphor to mean that I can help someone to see back where they came from and help them draft their life today to decide where they will be in the next 50 years.
A challenge I face when looking for others who can mentor is finding people who are not only successful in their careers, but who are willing to share their experiences of survival with love and passion. The workbook, Mentorship Manual – By Angolan Institute for Leadership, is a toolkit for mentors to facilitate mentorship sessions with the cohorts (groups of youth ranging in age from eight to 15 years old). They meet once a week over eight months, and during that time mentors shape participants to help them develop life skills, define life goals and assume their leadership role in the community with passion and vision.
When people ask me questions about wanting to become a mentor, they express that they have life experience and passion for mentoring. They also say that most of the youth in the community think attending leadership sessions will not solve their daily problems. My advice to the mentor has been to hold leadership sessions in a familiar space — for example, in the family environment. The objectives of the session should be based on the expectations of each member of the group. The mentor should follow a session plan for the group as a whole, but also develop a personal development plan for each member. Finally, the group should not be composed of more than 15 people.
Photo: Luis Jimbo mentors youth in Luanda, Angola (Courtesy of Luis Jimbo)
The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government.