Interview by: Stephanie Blum
Written by: Sierra Goerg
Working with Yunus&Youth provides our mentors with a unique experience to interact with young social entrepreneurs. This is the case for former Yunus&Youth mentor, Jerome Tong. Jerome currently lives in Singapore, working with cash solutions as a Vice President at Citi Bank. Last year he mentored Beverly Mutindi, an undergrad in her early 20’s working to increase the accessibility to sexual health education to teenagers in Kenya. This was the first time Jerome has mentored anyone as young as Beverly.
“As an undergrad, they have to juggle a lot of responsibility,” Jerome explains. “On the one hand, they are trying to start a company, and on the other hand, they have their studies taking up so much time.” He admired Beverly’s commitment and work ethic to drive change in her country while also attending school. Jerome utilized his past mentorship experience to help Beverly but altered his advice and support to fit her needs.
Working with young social entrepreneurs can be a rewarding experience as Jerome explains his time with Beverly as inspiring and beneficial for both himself and his mentee. Seeing how focused and motived Beverly was to help her community, even at such a young age, Jerome became inspired to become more involved with social enterprises and causes. When Jerome was young, he described the struggles that he endured to get where he is today, and by using that experience, Jerome helped Beverly bypass some of the battles. “When I was first starting out, it took a lot of self-learning, making mistakes, to get where I am,” Jerome says. “And I don’t want that for people who are starting out in the future… This way as a mentor, young mentees don’t have to learn the hard way. They can learn from my experience.”
“We all have our own approach to mentoring,” Jerome described. “Some who focus on networking, some who provide a listening ear, people who maybe want to help with certain topics like finance. Although we may have a different approach, the most important thing is to be open and respectful.” Jerome assisted Beverly with focus groups to understand the effectiveness of her pilot. He provided support and saw Beverly produce two pilots with her social venture, SophieBot. One where teenagers could access sexual health information and another where abuse survivors could share their experiences and receive support.
“Working so hard at a young age where they have a lot going on is inspiring and endearing. As a mentor, the least we can do is be there for them and provide as much support as they need to get their vision running.”