The Super HEROes Mentoring Program is a community-based, one-on-one mentoring program serving children, ages 6 -16, infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS in the metro-Atlanta area. Through the consistent support of committed volunteers, the children improve their self-esteem, self-confidence, goal setting and socialization skills. This program truly shows that one person can make a difference in the life of a child affected by HIV/AIDS.
The children, who we call "Little HEROs", need help in school, expressing their feelings and achieving their dreams. They like to go to the movies, swim in the pool or tell jokes. Children infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS aspire to the same childhood as any other child and they are always so excited when a Super HERO Mentor helps them get there. The children range in age from 6 to 16 and are matched with a mentor based on mutual interests and preferences. The children and their families go through a similar screening and training so to set proper expectations with all those involved.
Impact Story: Match Highlight: Karmen (child) and Jessica (mentor) Jessica (mentor) and Karmen (child) have been matched since April 2011. When the two were first introduced, both Jessica and Ms. Valerie (Karmen's guardian) reported that Karmen was withdrawn and had a very low sense of self-esteem/worth. Furthermore, Karmen was not very receptive to having a mentor. As a result, she was not very vocal early on in her match with Jessica. During Jessica's initial interview with the Director of Programs, she stated that the main reason she wanted to be a Super HERO Mentor was because she has firsthand experience with being an orphan and losing a parent to illness. Thus, she believed she was called to the program in order to help mentor a child with similar circumstances as she had growing up. Understanding that the child's issues are not her fault, Jessica vowed to stay committed to her match with Karmen.
Although their match had a rocky start, Jessica reports the following: Prior to her match with Jessica, Karmen was failing all of her courses and had no interest in going to college. Due to Jessica's ongoing encouragement and involvement in Karmen's school work, Karmen's grades have gone from an F to a B average. Karmen now wants to go to college to study fashion design. Karmen has a positive outlook on life, is much more outgoing and absolutely loves to try new things. Karmen is more confident and has a high level of self-esteem/worth. Karmen and her siblings never attended church in the past. With Ms. Valerie's approval, Karmen (and her siblings) attend church services twice each week with Jessica where Karmen often calls Jessica to remind her about upcoming services.
Ms. Valerie stated that Jessica spends a lot of time with Karmen and relates very well with her. She stated that Jessica is adamant about education and actively involved in Karmen's academics. Ms. Valerie has also given Jessica permission to attend Karmen's psychiatry appointments with her in order to continue the ongoing support Karmen needs. Ms. Valerie also stated that Jessica has been a wonderful influence on Karmen as she is now more independent (i.e., Karmen used to rely heavily on her twin sister and now has her own friends and is more comfortable doing things without her sister present) and overall a pleasure to be around. Ms. Valerie said that "Karmen is full of joy and clearly feels she has a purpose in life". Karmen stated "I really like Jessica because she helped me become a better me".