Mentoring Matters

Mentoring Matters

Tasting different cultures - HKU Mentorship allows both mentors and mentees from different backgrounds and nationalities to enjoy each others' cultures (Monica Wong on the far left)
Visit to Dialogue-in-the-Dark, a social enterprise established in Hong Kong by a mentor, allowed participants to experience the life of a visually-impaired person

Mentoring has a powerful impact on personal development. It helps build a student's confidence, inspire them and raise their aspirations. Mentors are the navigators in the maze of life, acting as both a guide and friend to their mentee.

This is why HKU started its mentorship programme in 1997, the first one at a tertiary institution in Hong Kong. It has proven to be hugely successful for both mentees and mentors, and has become an exemplar for other mentoring programmes in Hong Kong.

"Mentoring is a challenging and rewarding experience for both mentors and mentees. The result is a 'win-win-win' situation for everyone," said Monica Wong, Assistant Director (Alumni Affairs) of the Development and Alumni Affairs Office and co-ordinator of the programme.

HKU Mentorship brings together students with people from outside their chosen field of study who listen and advise, and provide guidance to help steer mentees toward their goals.

By bridging academic life and the realities of the work environment, HKU students have the opportunity to take a large step out of their comfort zone and gain a head start in their post-university career.

Mentors, in turn, greatly benefit from the mentorship relationship, receiving the satisfaction of making a difference in someone else's life, getting a fresh perspective on their own lives, and learning from the next generation.

The value of mentoring cannot be underestimated and that is why HKU Mentorship now spans the globe with outgoing exchange students reaping the extra benefits of a unique cross-cultural perspective from mentors based as far away as San Francisco and London.

No wonder, then, that other organisations wanting to set up their own mentorship programme turn to HKU and seek to emulate its successful programme.

"We've been asked many times how we are able to get these executives to give their time as they are all volunteers, and how we keep the programme running. Other institutions, especially from the Mainland, secondary schools and organisations like NGOs and clubs, also wanted to know how we do it," Ms Wong said.

Keen to share the secrets of its success with other institutions, HKU Mentorship produced and published HKU Mentorship 300,000 Hours - from social learning to social capital. The title is based on the number of hours volunteered in the first 12 years of the programme; a figure has since grown to more than 450,000 hours. The book includes an overview of how the programme began, testimonials from mentors and mentees, and a do-it-yourself checklist on setting up a mentorship programme.

"We have also taken our ideas to the community by holding sharing sessions in conjunction with such organisations as the Hong Kong Council of Social Services, Vocational Training Council, Helena May, and tertiary institutions from the Mainland and Hong Kong," explained Ms Wong.

"When we see how many mentoring relationships continue beyond the time of the programme, we really understand how everyone - the mentees, the mentors and HKU - benefits and grows from this programme," added Ms Wong.

To find out more about HKU Mentorship, visit: http://www.mentorship.hku.hk/.