Tutor/Mentor Connection

Connect knowledge, volunteers, youth and make a difference.

VOLUNTEERISM AND CITIZENSHIP IN BRAZIL AND THE WORLD

When, in 2018, then presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro (PSL) said, in the second round of elections, that he would “put an end to all activism in Brazil”, civil society organizations and social movements collectively signed a declaration of repudiation which cited a study carried out by IPEA (Instituto de Pesquisas Econômicas), in 2017, reporting the existence of 820,000 NGOs. Also according to the signatory organizations, it was a volunteer network at around millions of citizens[1], “who dedicate part of their time to building a fairer, more egalitarian society, in which the poorest population has access to fundamental basic rights, often not guaranteed by the State[2]”. However, having become president and after three years of systematic attacks on the activist work of so many entities, in fact, attempts to monopolize the activism that he did not stop using, as in the case of the bravado for the printed vote, under threat of no elections if he fails to do so, such an end point is not so easily achievable. According to the report by the Atados platform, which connects people interested in volunteer work to vacancies in organizations, in 2021, the number of enrollments in volunteer activities on the platform grew by 15% compared to 2020; The number of institutions seeking volunteers also increased by 28%[3]. Fortunately, it seems that so far, organized civil society has resisted an authoritarian government that wants to exclude it from public debates.

Therefore, it is worth briefly reflecting on the meanings that volunteering has been taking in Brazil in recent years, in view of current directions in research carried out worldwide.

One of the first studies on volunteering in Brazil was called “Programa de Estímulo ao Trabalho Voluntário", carried out by Fundação Abrinq pelos Direitos da Criança, in 1996, under the coordination of Mónica Corullón, seeking to bring proposals to modernize this type of action[4]. According to this study, at that time, it was possible to verify, as a motivator of volunteering, the introduction of the social component, linked to citizenship, that is, the set of rights and duties linked to social participation and sociability. According to Corullón, this social component, added to the previous individual component, related to moral values ​​with a strong cultural and religious heritage, such as altruism, solidarity and charity, represent an enormous transforming potential for the inner growth of the individual.

Corullón states that the introduction of the sense of citizenship as a motivator of volunteering allowed its clientele population to no longer be conceived as dependent and protected subjects, with citizens engaged in the defense of their rights and those of other people, which in turn requires the volunteer to take on more and more responsibilities. Other data from the same study are worth mentioning, such as the fact that volunteer work can improve self-image, promote a sense of accomplishment and competence, and act as an antidote to stress and depression, and consequently, volunteers tend to be healthier and happier and live longer than those who are not; Thus, in the Brazilian reality, volunteers from low socioeconomic strata, with problems of social insertion, rejection, lack of roots due to constant migrations, find in volunteer work a strong component to conform their identity, increase their self-esteem, and feel valued in the social environment in which they operate.

Let's now look at an example of using volunteering as a civic engagement strategy and a theory of transformation, from civil society organizations that support tutoring and/or mentoring programs, that is, programs that offer an academic part (tutoring) and/or a recreational part, focused on sociability (mentoring), usually in pairs formed by a mentor - not necessarily a licensed teacher - and a mentee, and on after-school hours, in order to build self-esteem and confidence in children and youth. According to American historian and political scientist Daniel Bassill, with a life dedicated to volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs, since he volunteered in one of them in Chicago in 1975, through a model in which volunteers from different backgrounds are attracted for the programs and the lives of children and communities, maintaining all the resources necessary for the schooling of the child affiliated to the program in elementary school - that is, for six to eight consecutive years -, support networks can be formed among disadvantaged young people and volunteers, helping the former overcome the obstacles of poverty – such as the lack of role models and resources – as they enter school and adult life, with jobs that enable them to raise their own kids free from the grips of poverty[5]. In other words, volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs are the best tool to deal with the absence of an effective support system for the education of children – comprising all mentors, role models, experiential activities, expectations and opportunities that must be present since birth -, mainly in regions of poverty concentration, where children suffer from the absence of working-parents, and are exposed to multiple risk factors during the non-school hours[6].

Still according to Bassill, for the model to work – that is, for more young people to stay in school, be safe during non-school hours, graduate and start jobs – programs need to educate volunteers about the difficulties that children and families in need face, motivating them to take action beyond their weekly commitment as a tutor and/or mentor. For these purposes, Bassill created a strategy, called “Total Quality Mentoring” (TQM), containing the following steps: 1) create advertisements or networks that motivate volunteers to get involved in programs[7]; 2) the volunteer starts an ongoing education stage on the tutoring/mentoring program, which should be either led by program leaders or self-directed; 3) as volunteers who do not live in poverty become personally involved with children in need, they begin to learn more about problems and challenges that children deal with on a daily basis, and they begin to become more interested in learning about these problems; 4) by maintaining the volunteer's engagement, he or she will become an advocate for the youth, the program and the mentoring system. As we can see, this strategy focus on transforming the lives of children and youth through the transformation of the lives of the volunteers, which the programs recruit from affluent areas and from the diverse industries, which, in turn, benefit from a well-trained and diverse workforce. We also note how the effectiveness of tutor/mentor programs depends on their ability to establish strong and lasting connections that promote positive change across the board[8].

There is yet another factor linked to the quality of the connections established between mentors and mentees – in addition to the time factor -, which we could not fail to mention. In 2008, an article published in the journal of the Association for Psychological Science, by Jean Rhodes and David L. Dubois[9] sought to criticize the main world trends in practices and policies involving mentoring programs, highlighting: firstly, a discovery carried out by Langhtou, Rhodes and Osborne, in 2004, according to which “(...) the results were more favorable when young people reported experiencing not only support but also some degree of structure in their relationships with their mentors” (RHODES & DUBOIS, 2008, p. 255); second, that “in general, close and enduring ties appear to be fostered when mentors adopt a flexible, youth-centered style in which the young person’s interests and preferences are emphasized, rather than when they focus predominantly on their own agendas or expectations for the relationship” (MORROW & STYLES, 1995 apud RHODES & DUBOIS, 2008, p. 255).

In the last two years, we have discovered that the Covid-19 pandemic has produced an increase in educational inequalities between young people who have managed to maintain themselves in a situation of learning and studies and those who have been excluded or disadvantaged in terms of formation, both academically and at work.  We also discovered that this situation has produced a lot of damage to the mental health of young people, who find it difficult to return to face-to-face socializing. In this sense, tutoring and mentoring programs are being applied to nearly 150,000 students, with a $200M statewide investment, in Tennessee, USA[10].

You can access the information mentioned in this article and start learning how to become a tutor/mentor in the future. If you are thinking about creating a mentoring program or if you are already the leader of one of these programs, I hope I have helped you to think about all the support and training necessary to create the connections between tutors, mentors, youth and learning opportunities presented above.

[1] According to Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de Domicílios Contínua (Pnad Contínua), in 2020, 6.9 million in 2019 and 7.2 million in 2018, equivalent to 4% and 4.3% of the population over 14 years of age, respectively. The survey also showed that the number of hours dedicated to volunteer work grew from 6.5 hours to 6.6 hours per week between 2018 and 2019.

[2] The declaration of repudiation can be read on http://new.institutofonte.org.br/?s=voluntariado. Are examples of laws that were conquered through activist work, being fundamental for the improvement of living conditions in the country and for advancing in the achievement of rights, cited by the declaration: “the one on the fight against racism and the fight against violence against women; public policies such as unemployment insurance and student financing; programs to combat deforestation and protect animals; the Anti-smoking Law and the Clean Record Law”.

[3] C.f. https://www.uol.com.br/ecoa/ultimas-noticias/2021/12/18/numero-de-b...

[4] CORULLÓN, Mónica. Voluntários. Programa de estímulo ao trabalho voluntário no Brasil. São Paulo: Fundação Abrinq pelos Direitos da Criança, 1996. A manual based on the cited study can be found on: http://www.espiritualidades.com.br/Artigos/C_autores/CORULLON_Monic....

[5] Cf. http://www.tutormentorexchange.net/images/PDF/successsteps.pdf.

[6] Cf. https://pt.slideshare.net/tutormentor/total-quality-mentoring-a-men....

[7] One form of motivation is the creation of search engines for tutor/mentor programs that allow volunteers to find a program they want to get involved in. For example, the Chicago program list created by Daniel Bassill: http://www.tutormentorexchange.net/chicago-area-program-links.

[8] Cf. https://pt.slideshare.net/tutormentor/total-quality-mentoring-a-men....

[9] Rhodes JE, DuBois DL. Mentoring Relationships and Programs for Youth. Current Directions in Psychological Science. 2008. Available: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228488351_Mentoring_Relati.... Access on: 20/01/2022. 

[10] Cf. https://www.tn.gov/education/news/2021/9/30/tdoe-announces-79-distr...

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Comment by Daniel Bassill on January 31, 2022 at 6:02pm

Good article Daniel.  Share it on your social media networks, like Twitter.  Tag me @tutormentorteam and I'll like & reTweet, hopefully to reach more people.  I hope some of your own connections help you spread this to people in Brazil.

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