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Faith brings dream alive

Tevita Vuibau
Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"THERE was just so much faith in humanity!"

That's how Priya Singh, the Fiji-born, New Zealand-based 24-year-old CEO of the Mentor Me Fiji Foundation, describes the process of bringing her dreams to life.

For those not familiar with it, the foundation works with students of Dilkusha Home providing them with mentors — high performing university students — who tutor them and give advice on school work and future career prospects with the aim of getting the girls into university.

The foundation was set up almost completely through social networking sites and programs like Facebook, Skype and Drop Box and Ms Singh explained the response to their calls for people to join was overwhelming.

"So I advertised for mentor managers, marketing people, communications people and I got a really good turnout, it was so good that I had to say no to people," Ms Singh said.

Altogether there are nine mentors and nine mentees.

Ms Singh explained that each person involved with the foundation, from the mentors to the executive committee, had done so voluntarily. "There was just so much faith in humanity and everyone was, yeah OK, that's fine," she said.

"I guess everyone believes in one cause — some people believe in environmental awareness, I believe in economic empowerment and education and this foundation does both these things at the same time.

"And I guess there's other people out there that believe the same thing and they want to fight for the same cause and those are the people who have approached me and are willing to volunteer their time."

She explained they had nine mentors and nine students from Dilkusha Home and as more girls entered high school they would recruit more mentors.

"Every child at Dilkusha has been paired up with a high performance second or third year university student according to what subjects they take and what their future career prospects are," Ms Singh, a former Yat Sen student, explained.

"What will happen going forward is every month the mentor and the mentee will meet for about one to two hours and they'll discuss whatever issues they're having.

"And these mentors who are university students will tutor kids from Dilkusha and give them whatever help they need so once it gets close to exam time and stuff there will be more tutoring sessions so they can prepare themselves for university." And the mentees are a diverse group each with their own dreams.

Like Archana Reddy who studies the sciences and dreams of becoming a chef, 16-year-old Palvi Chand who aspires to become a veterinarian and Year 10 Lelean Memorial School student Ilisapeci Daucakacaka. It was girls like these who inspired Ms Singh to begin the Mentor Me Fiji Foundation.

"When I was little we used to go to Dilkusha home every Christmas and I've really just believed that education is something that you can use to break the cycle.

"Because if you have a really good tertiary education you can use that to become really independent in life and for a lot of these girls when I went there and spoke to them they didn't really see that possibility.

"It was all sort of I'll finish high school and I'll have to find my way because when they're 18 they have to leave the home and there's never been a process where people tell them it's possible.

"They can go to university and do something and get a successful job and that's sort of where my inspiration came from.

"It's just to make them aware that there is that opportunity out there for you and we will help you get there."

Ms Singh, who graduated from Auckland University with a Bachelor of Commerce double majoring in finance and accounting and a Bachelor of Science double majoring in applied mathematics and statistics, is a second year financial analyst at Deloitte in Auckland.

And using her financial know-how, she has structured the foundation in a way that could potentially allow it to operate in any country.

"The foundation is structured in a way that the foundation doesn't need any money to run, we don't need donations, everyone volunteers their time and because they're not getting paid we really don't need any money at all to function," she said

"Social media makes it quite easy so we have all our trustee meetings and all our committee meetings on skype and we have dropbox for all our documents.

And Ms Singh said the foundation hopes to work with more orphanages in the future and bring them into the program with St Christophers next on their list.

She also explained the foundation would work to secure funding for the mentees to attend university in the future.

"I guess the secondary aim for the foundation is to find funding for the kids to go to university and in that aspect what we are hoping to do is find funding in the form of scholarships.

"The money won't come into the foundation and go out to the child it will just be a scholarship from the company straight to the child so it will just go straight to the university.

"The main reason for me doing that is because my long term goal is to go into Asia Pacific and I didn't want tax laws to change how things work.

"With those scholarships we'll be approaching corporate so that's Vodafone, Telecom, KPMG based on what the child wants to study.

"So if one of the girls wants to study accounting we'll be approaching the four big accounting firms or one of the second tier accounting firms saying 'hey, there's an underprivileged person who's studying this, are you interested in sponsoring her?'."

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