BelEve It

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Chinti's cherished Production Manager, Phiona, recently let slip that she has become a mentor to a girl in South London as part of her cousin's social enterprise to help young women fulfill their potential, BelEve UK. More than a little intrigued (and awed), we pressed her for some more information about her cousin's initiative, and ended up speaking to the lady herself, Marsha Powell.

As we well know, the transition from girl to woman and school to adult life can be utterly bewildering even with an abundance of love and support, but many are not so fortunate, and that crucial component of success and happiness - self-esteem - can very easily be blotted out.

350Marsha Powell, founder and director of BelEve UK

Could you tell us a bit about what BelEve does?

MP: BelEve UK is a social enterprise that is passionate about inspiring change, education and empowering growth by supporting girls and young women aged 10-24 to develop skills to improve their life and career prospects. We ensure they have the right support, skills and confidence to make informed choices about their future and take control of their own destiny with a smart plan.

There’s seems like there’s a bit of a play on words happening with the name – could you explain a little?

MP: The name BelEve gets everyone asking ‘where is the I in BelEve?’ BelEve originates from two names combined  - Bel is from ‘TinkerBel’ and Eve is Eve. These names put together stand for “Beautiful First Lady”. We at BelEve UK believe all young women have the potential to transform (with the right support and guidance) like butterflies into beautiful Women. The power in the name is we want all young women to believe that they are beautiful.

What inspired you to start such an initiative?

MP: The BelEve journey began after the death of my beautiful mother. Whilst the vision was there, the desire to take a risk and turn my vision into reality, very much came a year after my mother died.  I had worked for a corporate organization for over 13 years as an HR Business Partner, so supporting people is my thing, however I felt that my true purpose was supporting, guiding and educating young women, who do not necessarily have the same support or opportunities I received from my mother.

It is apparent that there are many social issues that impact on young women from diverse backgrounds and thus, I wanted BelEve UK to be an organisation that inspired change and helped young women to start believing in themselves.

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 14.03.45Marsha with two of her mentees at a recent event

How easy was it to get support and get set up?

MP: As a 34-year old women [at the time of incorporating the business] there is very little start-up business support for someone of my age.  If I was 18-24 I would have been lucky enough to have support and money thrown at me to start-up. Therein, BelEve UK was self-funded for a good while, until we won our first funding bid in April 2013, however we have gained support from a number of mentors.

What have been the biggest challenges to date with this initiative?

MP: Our biggest challenge has been resources in the first year.  Whilst we have been fortunate to obtain funding over the last year, being the only full-time employee, mother of two and the eldest of three sisters, the challenge has been getting my work-life balance right.  My perfectionist nature and visionary mind has impacted on our delivery, as I like to think outside the box and to push boundaries. So in a year, we have had 5 events with over 200 guests at each, and we’ve delivered 2 cohorts of our employability programme, working with 25 young women as well as started two girls groups across Lewisham.

What sort of training do your mentors undergo prior to taking on a mentee?

MP: All our mentors undergo a day’s training with a qualified mentor trainer.  The day is informative, fun and interactive.  All the potential mentors get an opportunity to do role-play.

How do you match mentors and mentees for the best possibly outcome?

MP: We ensure that the young girls have an opportunity to have an element of choice with regards to who they get matched with.  We organize a speed networking event so that the young girls get an opportunity to meet and choose three mentors they would like to work with and then the BelEve UK team match them with the most suitable one.

How long does each mentoring relationship typically last?

MP: We recommend that the mentoring relationship lasts for up to one year, however every relationship is different and the needs of the young women vary greatly, so the length of the relationship is determined on a case by case basis.

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What’s your favourite experience of mentoring to date?

MP: My favourite experience of mentoring is seeing the change and growth in the young girls. On our employability programme we had 15 young women who all had low self-esteem and confidence in their abilities.  After 15 weeks on the programme they all have greatly improved self-esteem and confidence compared to when we first meet them.  It is so, so rewarding to hear their testimonies.

BelEve are running a free event, BelEve Girls Rock, this Sunday 27 April 11am - 4pm at Deptford Lounge. There will be performances, food, open mic and workshops.

For further information on BelEve UK