TRURO - While the Town of Truro’s Mayor Bill Mills recently proclaimed African Heritage Month, he also stressed the importance of recognizing the significant contributions African Nova Scotians bring to our community every day of the year. The Mentoring Plus Strategy recognizes this too and saw fit to appoint a local woman to steward the connection between the black community’s seniors with people in our community who could benefit from their breadth of work and life experience. Tracy Dorrington-Skinner joined the Mentoring Plus Strategy’s team in December 2020 as the Community Engagement Facilitator and is already meeting with local seniors to share the mission of the project in the hopes of bringing them on board.
One of those seniors is Glenda Talbot-Richards and Dorrington-Skinner met with her Thursday to introduce her to the Mentoring Plus Strategy which sees seniors and retirees as a largely untapped resource and seeks to connect them with people in need of guidance and mentorship in their community. Talbot-Richards immediately saw the benefit of mentorship saying, “People don’t grow or develop unless they have someone in their corner rooting for them.” Talbot-Richards was intrigued, saying, “When I look throughout the community, I see people have so much to offer. I think education is important, not only formal education but also informal.” Talbot-Richards is one of about 40 people that Dorrington-Skinner is visiting with locally to share the mission of the project and she believes having someone who knows the community well in the facilitator’s role will have an impact on the project’s success. She said a lot of people don’t really realize how much they have to offer as a mentor. “It’s important to value their experience and say we want who you have, regardless of what it is; that’s how you build trust in our communities.”
Dorrington-Skinner’s intimate knowledge of the African Nova Scotian community is one of the reasons why she was chosen as the Community Engagement Facilitator. “Our seniors are young enough to still want to get out there with the youth; that’s going to keep them young, and they want to stay sharp.” This is the crux of the Mentoring Plus Strategy, to reduce the social isolation of seniors by helping them stay happy and healthy and involved in their communities. Dorrington-Skinner is excited about tapping the knowledge of her community’s seniors to support those with less life experience. “I hope to get them excited about something they’ve always wanted to happen. “This unique group of people has knowledge, not only of the workforce, but through the experiences they bring, the challenges they’ve overcome, and the community growth they have witnessed and hoped for.” Dorrington-Skinner credits women in her community for acting as mentors in her life and career. “My grandmother said to me, you learn from the people that are doing, so I learned from the Marg Jacksons, the Glenda Talbot-Richards, and the Marie Jones.” She says the mentorship of these women gave her nuggets of wisdom that helped build a sense of tenacity in her, “Because Glenda has gone there before me, I benefit from her knowledge and experience.”
The four-year pilot project is financially supported by over $3-million dollars from the federal government through the New Horizons for Seniors Program. The Mentoring Plus Strategy uses an intergenerational approach to connect knowledgeable seniors with individuals in need of mentorship to help them succeed in their lives, their careers, and in some cases, as entrepreneurs. The idea of elder knowledge helping those less experienced isn't new, but what's new about the strategy is that it's being developed to help those from all walks of life across various sectors including health, agriculture, business, tourism and arts & culture. The Mentoring Plus Strategy is being piloted in the counties of Pictou, Colchester, and Kings and is supported by Dalhousie's College of Continuing Education as the backbone organization.
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Mentoring Plus Strategy,
The Mentoring Plus Strategy aims to provide seniors opportunities to contribute to the economic and social well-being of the Province of Nova Scotia. The Strategy encourages retirees to share their knowledge and skills, gained through career and life experience, to assist a variety of populations as they chart their future. Dalhousie University Faculty of Open Learning & Career Development is the Backbone Organization for The Mentoring Plus Strategy being implemented in the Towns of Kentville, New Glasgow, and Truro (Collaborating Organizations) and their adjacent municipalities. The project is funded by the Government of Canada New Horizons for Seniors Program.
The Mentoring Plus Strategy’s African Nova Scotian Community Engagement Facilitator Tracy Dorrington- Skinner talks with Truro’s Glenda Talbot-Richards about how the Strategy can engage seniors to share their knowledge and experience through mentoring. She shows her a set of Ancestor Wisdom cards highlighting affirmations and validations through the voices of their African ancestors. The cards are just one way Tracy is generating conversation with seniors about connecting to their roots.