There are plenty of organisations aimed at helping others, and in this sense, The Extra Mile is nothing out of the ordinary. But there are two ways of helping someone. One is to give them what they need to sustain their life. Another is to give them what they need to change their life and eventually become independent.
The Extra Mile came into existence because we felt that, while there was plenty of organisations aimed at helping unemployed migrants, we didn’t see very many migrants making real progress. Having food and a place to sleep is good, but not always enough. Sometimes we need to be pushed. We need help creating and executing a plan, and most importantly, we need someone to hold us accountable to that plan.
This is where The Extra Mile differs from many other organisations. We are not satisfied with maintaining the status quo. We are satisfied when our users can live life on their own terms. We take the action we think is necessary to reach those results.
We humans feel a certain sense of pride when we accomplish something by ourselves. But we all go through stages of life where we must let ourselves be pushed in the right direction by people who can help us. Our parents push us in the back to ride the bicycle until we can do it ourselves, university teachers give us deadlines that push us to learn, work colleagues and managers push us to perform better at our jobs.
Both mentors and mentees in The Extra Mile agree that the pride of doing things alone and without help is not a priority. For the mentors, accepting help and training to be of real use, to make a difference and to achieve big results are better reasons to be proud. For the mentees, becoming a self-sufficient person, supporting their family and contributing to society are much greater sources of pride.
My colleagues took their jobs not just to put a philanthropic activity on their CV, but because they want to make a real difference for someone. They enjoy their responsibilities and are eager to participate in trainings to become even more useful to the migrants. Just as our mentees demonstrate humility by their willingness to accept help in finding work, our mentors do the same by admitting that learning from others will enable them to do a better job.
That is what I like about The Extra Mile. It is a shared experience where everyone learns. We understand that we sometimes have to rely on others for help, and that we are stronger together than we are alone. We all have the humility to accept a push in the back.
Written by Peter Dam.