BYU student volunteers log onto their computers once a week to mentor and chat with young students in other countries through the Y-Serve program Village Mentors.
Village Mentors is a local chapter within an international non-profit group called Village Book Builders. Through this program, a BYU student is paired with one elementary or middle school student from another part of the world who may not have the resources or access to quality education to help them with their schooling.
According to the Village Mentors website, the goal of this program is to “empower villages around the world and to drive change and end the cycle of poverty through education.”
Village Book Builder workers go to lower-income countries and build schools and infrastructures in various locations. They provide libraries, computers and internet connections for the students so that they are able to have access to education.
Village Book Builders then connects these young students to those who volunteer with this program. Most BYU volunteers mentor students from Zambia, Malawi and Ghana.
During these weekly meetings with the young students, volunteers help them work through their schoolwork and practice their English skills. This allows the students to improve their education while the volunteers are able to provide service and gain new perspectives on other countries.
Village Mentors suggests student volunteers commit to at least four months with the program so they can build trust and a strong relationship with the student they are teaching. These students are able to learn about their volunteer’s life and vice versa.
Matthew Tufts, the executive director of Village Mentors, was looking for a service opportunity on the Y-Serve website when he discovered the Village Mentors program. It was not set up yet, so he decided to organize this program for himself and other students.
Tufts served a mission in Africa and finds the idea of working with kids in lower-income countries meaningful. He said he wants these students to have educational opportunities to increase their knowledge.
“Sometimes it’s hard to communicate at first, but over time you build that relationship and you really get to be friends with that student,” Tufts said. “It’s super rewarding to be able to know that you have an impact on their life.”
BYU sophomore and music education major Claire Wride stumbled upon Village Mentors when she was searching for something to fulfill her 10-hour service project for her American Heritage class. She said she has enjoyed spending one hour per week mentoring a student, especially since teaching is what she wants to do as a career.
“I might not understand everything that she is saying, and she might have a hard time understanding what I’m saying, but at the heart, we’re still people who both enjoy soccer and listening to music,” Wride said. “There’s so much more that connects us as people than what divides us.”
Jared Weight, BYU sophomore and neuroscience major, has been involved with Village Mentors for about a year now. He said he started volunteering with this program because it reminded him of his humanitarian trip to Zambia he had taken a few years prior.
Weight said he wanted to make a difference for the kids in Africa. He felt that the Village Mentors program was the best place for him to be able to do that.
“I love when they ask me questions about things and then we go and learn about these things together,” Weight said. “It’s awesome to be able to help them grow and help them in areas that they want to learn about.”
Readers who are interested in volunteering with the Village Mentors program or any other Y-Serve group can see the Y-Serve website for more information.