Updated: Mar 24, 2022
Due to her health condition, Rae Ai looked younger than those her age, as she had a smaller than usual built since she could not eat well. It also led to her struggling with self-esteem issues which stemmed from the bullying she received in school.
“I had a lot of pent up anger and resentment from being severely bullied in school, and it was beginning to take a toll on me. Gradually, I became a very angry person. I built a wall around me and became very unfriendly. Although I noticed the change in myself, I felt helpless and did not know what to do.”
Rae Ai (middle) with her mentors from YGOS
At the age of 11, Rae Ai was diagnosed with a chromosome illness which explained her small stature. She was also later diagnosed with a kidney problem. These conditions required her to inject herself everyday with growth hormones. Although she had hopes that the treatment could help her grow taller, she had to eventually stop the injections as it resulted in her having scoliosis due complications from the growth hormones.
“The worse part for me was being told that I would never be able to have children due to my illness. I was so upset as I had dreams of becoming a mother, but now I might never be able to be one.
However, the next piece of information grieved her even further. “The worse part for me was being told that I would never be able to have children due to my illness. I was so upset as I had dreams of becoming a mother, but now I might never be able to be one. It took me awhile to accept this about my health, but after thinking it through, I felt that perhaps it was to be my mission to adopt a child that did not have a loving parent and to raise the child with love even though they were not my own.”
With an ailing health and a dismal schooling experience, Rae Ai felt discouraged and lost.
However, this changed when she met her mentors from local nonprofit Youth Guidance Outreach Services (YGOS) through their School Social Work programme called the P.E.A.R.L.S programme when she was 13 years old.
“It was the personal mentorship that I gained from YGOS staff whom I met, and they helped me to understand myself better through learning about techniques related to emotional regulation and much more.
“It was the personal mentorship that I gained from YGOS staff whom I met, and they helped me to understand myself better through learning about techniques related to emotional regulation and much more. I was also inspired by how kind and patient the facilitators in YGOS were towards me and my classmates, and I could feel their passion for youth. It made me realize that despite my circumstances, there were still good people in the world.”
Rae Ai playing with her mentor's daughter
The P.E.A.R.L.S programme is a preventive programme developed by YGOS, targeting students who present initial signs of risk such as low academic motivation, irregular school attendance, disciplinary issues, poor social skills or emotional regulation skills as identified by their teachers, discipline masters or counselors. Through a series of sports workshops, the facilitators impart positive socio-emotional values to the students.
“I developed a strong friendship with the caring mentors over the course of the programme and decided to continue to attend their aftercare activities as I enjoyed hanging out with them,” said Rae Ai. “One of their youth aftercare drop-in programmes that I decided to attend was the Experiential Learning and Mentoring Programme (ELMP). Which I have benefitted from.”
Rae Ai (right) with her mentor on a grocery run
Young people do not have to face their challenges alone, and it is YGOS' goal that youths like Rae Ai receive all the care and support they need throughout and even after the school programmes end. Staff often go the extra mile to provide a listening ear to youths who just need the attention that they may lack in school or even at home, so that they are in the best frame of mind to face their challenges whether emotionally or physically.
“I hope to do what’s good to others as I have gained much from the support and help from YGOS.
“I have since gained much confidence to overcome my self-esteem issues since young, as I was always introverted. I have a close relationship with my mentors Deborah and Glada and I am grateful for their support for me all these years, even up to the recent passing of my mother whom I lost to cancer in 2021.”
Now, she says: “I hope to do what’s good to others as I have gained much from the support and help from YGOS. My aspiration is to be an early childhood educator and make a difference in the lives of young children.”
We hope that Rae Ai's story has given you a new perspective in our outreach to youths! Oftentimes, they may face struggles invisible to the eyes; it is only through dedicated time spent with them that we are able to better support them holistically. Would you like to be part of our support system for youths like Rae Ai?
Consider this definition of a “Mentor”:
Mentors provide guidance, advice, feedback, and support to the mentee, serving variously as role model, teacher, counselor, advisor, sponsor, advocate, and ally, depending on the specific goals and objectives negotiated with the mentee.
Join us as a Mentor to impact a youth today! Click the “Get Involved” tab to find out more!