Feature Issue on Transition in a Global Context for People with Intellectual, Developmental, and Other Disabilities
Small, But Sweet, Success
As part of a research project at Royal Thimphu College, I participated in a mentorship program that proved to be an effective transition tool for students and youth with
disabilities. After the project ended, the bond between the mentors and mentees (students and youth with disabilities) remained, and I am still in touch with a few of my mentees.
One particular youth with disabilities that I am personally in touch with is Mamta Biswa. Mamta became part of the project when she applied for and received a micro-grant to kickstart her home-based baking business. As a mentor, it was very important not only to work with her individually but also with her entire family. During the course of the project, I made conscious efforts to meet and get to know her family. Mamta’s family owned a small restaurant near the National Referral Hospital in Thimphu when I first met her. After careful analysis and understanding of her situation, I encouraged her to start the business. As a mentor, I also helped her shop for the basic essentials. This gave her a lot of confidence and trust with the business. It was amazing to see such supportive parents, who also got involved and helped research and purchase an oven for Mamta’s business.
Each coordinator (mentors) had a few mentees and from the start, it was easy to see that strong family support made a huge difference in the lives of youths with disabilities. This support made my work as a mentor much simpler and made Mamta’s plan more successful.
Mamta Biswa started a home-based baking business.
Mamta was a bit nervous when she found out that her father was transferred to a remote part of Bhutan, which meant she also had to move with them. She had already made a network within her area in Thimphu. As a mentor, I helped her see this as an opportunity, on an experimental basis, to start her business at a new place, where baking goods are not as common. Mamta and I brainstormed ideas about what people would like in this new place and what could be a good, affordable price for them. With that, we discussed trying out a few new recipes, adding breads and buns to her existing muffins. Mamta is doing great in her new home. Her baked goods are selling really well and she is continuing to not only make herself some pocket money but also support her family as an independent woman. I am very proud to be able to give guidance to Mamta virtually and see her doing well. I am very confident, if such kind of mentorship programs would be continued, we as friends and well-wishers of people with disabilities could keep helping our friends and our society achieve our collective goal of inclusion. I continue to serve as a mentor on a volunteer basis, but if this work could be incentivized, there would be many more mentors who would be encouraged to add their energy to this wonderful act of humanity.
When I started as the inclusive transition coordinator in 2020, one of my first tasks as a mentor was to spend time with and get to know my mentees individually. That was a very important time for me as a mentor, as it taught me a lot about each one of them, including their areas of interest. I encouraged them to update their resumes and keep them on hand. We also worked on job skills, and I helped locate an internship opportunity for one student. I helped another student, who was interested in tennis, get an introduction to the Bhutan Olympic Committee.
I am still in touch with my other mentees from Royal Thimphu College. They share their issues and concerns and I try to guide and empower them. Many times, they come up with their own solutions. Sometimes all I have to do is listen, not just with my ears, but all my heart.