O’s Success Tips: Be A Mentor

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“I hate you, Dad!” Those were the words that circled fervently in my mind, only to be restrained by the intimidating figure of my Dad telling me for the umpteenth time that I could not go out with my friends. I already knew what his answer would be, but somehow I felt that this time would be different, after all I was a few days older. But it was the same response “no.” A word I had become accustomed to growing up as a child under the strict rules of my parents – NO you can’t have that toy, NO you can’t attend that sleepover, NO you can’t watch TV late. NO, NO, NO!

As a child, I detested living in my house. Compared to the other kids in the community, my brothers and I had no freedom. While other kids got to party late at night, we had to be at home by 9:00 pm. While other kids received cool toys growing up, all we received were tons and tons of books. I still vividly remember my 13th year birthday gift; a large Bible! What was I expected to do with a Bible?! My Bible could not transform and it didn’t make cool sounds when pressed. All it did was lay on the side table, closed. I constantly lusted after the lifestyle of the other kids in the community. I wondered what it would feel like to have all the freedom in the world and to be able to attend parties without mandatory parental approval. My curiosity was further peaked by the exaggerated stories of my peers, especially David. David was the quintessential kid that lived the lifestyle I absolutely longed for. He had an unbridled amount of freedom and all the kids gathered around in earnest to hear his stories of nights out of town. I envied David, his clothes, his toys but most especially his freedom. He was a stark reminder of what my life lacked…

I would later lose touch with David for almost 10 years; only to become reacquainted with him in the most unusual circumstance. It occurred during one of my visits to Nigeria, while I was talking to my Mum. I’m not sure how but somehow, we began talking about David. I learnt that David had gotten deeply involved in illicit drugs a habit that led him to commit an act that was utterly beyond belief. One night, while his mum was asleep, he fatally shot her, culminating his precarious journey with an inevitable stint in jail. I was devastated by the news, “David did what?” I thought to myself repeatedly. Growing up, I always wanted to be like David. But as I stood in the room absorbing the news, I realized that my significantly restricted lifestyle was a subconscious effort to  keep me away from trouble and suppress my testosterone levels.

The same kind of situation that would plague South Africa’s Pilansberg Park in the early 90’s. For decades, the Park had served as a protection facility for endangered animal life. A sustained environment where animals were allowed to grow and develop, protected from greedy poachers and a diminishing landscape. Thus, it was a surprise when mutilated, and crushed, rhino carcasses were discovered around the park. What was more befuddling was the fact that the rhino’s prized horn, so cherished on the black market for its intrinsic value, remained untouched (missing horns were a key indicator of poacher activity). With thirty nine endangered rhinos (10% of the park’s animal population) found dead, it was imperative for the staff on the Pilansberg Park to determine the cause of death.

Taking a page straight out of a crime scene investigation movie, the rhino carcasses were closely analyzed. The crushed bones were probably caused by a heavy weight, while the pierced carcasses were definitely the result of a hard sharp object. Of all the inhabitants in the park, only one fit both descriptions “the elephants.” With an average weight of over ten thousand pounds, elephants could easily crush the bones of rhinos. The pierced rhino skins were probably caused by the dense ivory tusks that ran on either side of the elephants gigantic trunk. These findings, coupled with the fact that elephants were repeatedly found in the vicinity of most of the rhino killings made the elephants the prime suspects. This suspicion would later be validated when a park ranger observed a young male elephant knocking over a rhino and trampling  it repeatedly, before driving his tusk through the rhino’s chest!

Unfortunately, there was no rehabilitation facility or juvenile organization for elephants. The only plausible solution was to kill off the trouble elephants to protect the rhino population. Over 5 elephants were killed at the park and for the next couple of years, no more rhino killings occurred. Seemingly the problem had been solved. Sadly, the park bliss was again disrupted when more lifeless rhinos were discovered with the same tell-tale signs of an elephant attack “pierced skin and crushed bones.” At this point, it became obvious that something was blaringly wrong with this herd of elephants. According to conservationist Dave Cooper, rhinos and elephants routinely clash in nature “but this sort of behavior, where elephants actively go out and chase rhino, is totally abnormal.” Similar aggressive behavior had also been observed in a nearby park called Kruger Park, a parent park that had provided the very first set of elephants to Pilansberg Park.

With a similar behaviour observed at Kruger Park, conservationists began investigating the elephant backgrounds and their behaviors more intently. Their detailed investigation uncovered something quite startling. It was discovered that the elephants involved in the killings had a testosterone level above normal. This abnormality seemed to drive the elephants aggressive behavior, but what drove the testosterone? Back in the 1960’s, Kruger Park had an excessive amount of elephants. At that time, there were limited means of transferring the larger adults to a different vicinity due to their massive proportions. As a solution, the researchers opted to eradicate the older, larger adults while sparing the younger elephants, who were a lot easier to transport. A seemingly undisruptive decision became the crux of the rhino killing problem observed at Pilansberg Park. Without any adult guidance or supervision, the younger elephants developed aggressive tendencies that led them to hunt and attack rhinos in an unorthodox manner.

Armed with this revelation, a decision was made to move six adult elephant bulls from Kruger into Pilansberg. The result was instantaneous! No more rhino killings were observed and consequently, the  testosterone level of young elephant bulls had significantly dropped. It was deduced that the older elephants were able to suppress the younger elephants both physically and socially, thus subduing their testosterone levels and their overall aggressive behavior. However, this discovery was made after more than six elephants had been killed in an erroneous attempt to solve the killing rhino death mystery. An unfortunate scenario that sharply reflects what goes on in our society today. Children without suitable role models are judged prematurely by a society that is all too hasty to throw them into a jail cell or administer the death penalty. While those with role models such as myself fail to fully appreciate their blessings.

In the US alone, 80% of prison inmates have been through a foster care system. Additionally, children in foster care are three to six times more likely to have emotional, behavioral, developmental problems including disorderly conduct. Comparing both the foster care system and the Pilansberg elephants, it is clear that the absence of stable parents/role-models plays a key factor in the outcome of a child’s life. With half a million kids from distressed households registered in the foster care system and a lot more unregistered, there is a drastic shortage of responsible parents. But the good news is that we don’t have to be parents to make a difference in the life of a child. Just by volunteering our time in various organizations such as the Depelchin’s Children Home, Big Brother/Sisters or by simply mentoring a younger family member, we can make a huge impact in a child’s life.

One minute of your time could change a child’s life forever. Make a difference today and remember “The most important single influence in the life of a person is another person… who is worthy of emulation.” – Paul D Shafer

Motivational Speaker and Life Coach

Copyright © 2009 Ofili Speaks, Inc. All rights reserved


Author: Ofili

Words by Okechukwu Ofili of ofilispeaks.com
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3 comments on “O’s Success Tips: Be A Mentor

  1. volunteerman on said:

    Great article! There are some great opportunites to make a real difference in a child’s life… and some great organizations in Houston doing just that. DePelchin, as you mentioned, is one such place. http://www.depelchin.org

  2. ofilispeaks on said:

    Definitely Depelchin is a powerful organizaiton. One that i have volunteered at and was quite moved by the impact they are striving to make!

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