July 23, 2021

UCalgary students start an international mentorship program with big goals

SEND IT ON connects Canadian students with youth in Kenya and Uganda to help each other become agents of change
International discussion group - Send it on
International discussion group participants Nyongesa, Sarah and Mazzinga, mentors in Katosi, Uganda
Jeshna Kumari and Sarina Zohdi, co-founders of Send It On

Jeshna Kumari and Sarina Zohdi, co-founders of SEND IT ON

Sometimes big changes locally can come from relationships developed internationally, especially if those relationships are with young people thousands of miles away on a different continent. That was the motivation behind SEND IT ON.

Co-founded in 2020 by UCalgary Nursing student, Jeshna Kumari, and Faculty of Science student, Sarina Zohdi, SEND IT ON is aspiring to big things: promoting cultural dialogue and empowering global leaders. The pair works with an executive team of nine Canadian students to foster relationships across the ocean, with the ultimate goal to encourage both sides to be agents for change in their own country.

SEND IT ON’s mission is inspired by the old proverb: “give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” Kumari and Zohdi felt they could best do this by promoting the exchange of ideas. Their Unite Through Cultures and International Discussions programs match youth aged 12-22 from Kenya and Uganda with university students (16-years and up) across Canada to form reciprocal mentoring relationships, where both parties mentor each other.

Shirley Lehr, VP media director and mentor

UCalgary Nursing student and SEND IT ON’s media director Shirley Lehr

Students are matched by SEND IT ON’s program managers, UCalgary Nursing students, who evaluate interests, hobbies, future career goals and preferences to accommodate the choices of both parties. Out of the 35 Canadian mentors, SEND IT ON has 10 UCalgary Nursing students in their Unite Through Cultures program. SEND IT ON also hosts monthly family meetings where all Canadian mentors come together on Zoom to check-in, chat and learn more about the events happening in the world.

“I am a firm believer in the power of connecting with and learning from others,” says Kumari. “Given my previous connections with friends in Uganda and Kenya, I thought that mentorship was the best way to truly make a change in both local and international communities.”

After matching pairs, SEND IT ON provides ongoing guidance to mentors through its online resources. Pairs can find ideas to spark conversations and promote personal development with a career, fitness and life goals planning template.

“Through the exchange of ideas with youth in Uganda and Kenya, we provide a platform for learning, new perspectives and knowledge on different ways of life,” explains UCalgary Nursing student and SEND IT ON’s media director Shirley Lehr. “We can help promote personal development on both sides.”

SEND IT ON is considering expanding their Unite Through Cultures program to Germany because Lehr was born and raised there.

“I moved to the Yukon with my family in 2017 and have always been extensively involved in my community through volunteering,” she says, adding that she mentors a student in Uganda. “I really believe in the mission of SEND IT ON as I grew up in a diverse family, which illuminated my love for different cultures."

On Aug. 21, 2021, SEND IT ON will host its first ever in-person event and is inviting all Calgarians. This event celebrates Calgary’s re-opening after several lockdowns. There will board games, sports, cultural knowledge, music from around the world, free food, a health and wellness event, raffles and a bonfire to wrap up the night. Stay tuned to SEND IT ON’s media platforms for more information and registration details on Facebook and Instagram.

Want to join SEND IT ON? There are opportunities to become an executive, mentor, and/or representative.