Sit down With Mentoring researcher Tereza Javornicky Brumovská, PhD.

By Shanice Juma Nakhuva

Mentoring is a principle present in social, steady, and long-term social interactions. Mentoring relationships support young people in their perceptions and experience that there is someone who cares about them, assures them they are not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges, and makes them feel like they matter. Research to date showed that quality mentoring relationships have positive effects on young people in a variety of personal, academic, and professional contexts. Tereza J. Brumovská is a researcher from the Czech Republic with a background in applied social sciences. With a MA in Social Work and a Ph.D. in Sociology, she has spent almost two decades studying mentoring for socially-disadvantaged children, youths and children and young people in general.

Her illustrious career began by volunteering as a mentor in the Czech BBBS programme when she was just a bachelor’s student at Charles University in Prague. While building up on this mentoring experience, she conducted an MA research on the mentoring experience in the BBBS programme that was subsequently published in the Czech monograph on formal youth mentoring and volunteering in 2010. This experience motivated her to further her studies in a challenging Ph.D. programme: sociology from the University of Galway in Ireland, funded as a doctoral fellowship and supervised by the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre.

 As a doctoral research fellow, she gained invaluable skills such as expert knowledge in qualitative research designs and methods as well as qualitative research interviewing and data analysis. Her thesis was on the exploration of initial motivation and its impact on quality and dynamics in formal youth mentoring relationships. During this time she also acquired teaching experience from lecturing at the National University of Ireland, Galway (currently the University of Galway) to both bachelor and Master students. These skills would come in handy for her chosen line of work.

Tereza is an altruistic person by nature. When she graduated, she worked as a caregiver at Nua Health Services in Ireland. She was responsible for the daily routines of clients with mental health disabilities in residential social care homes. She especially cared for young adults with severe autism and mental disabilities aged between eighteen and twenty-two as well as adults diagnosed with different severe psychiatric disorders. During this period, she also worked as a social pedagogue in Compass Child and Family Services with children and young people in residential care homes, and with students with disabilities in Student social services at the University of Galway. She also managed the university’s programme for student volunteers called ALIVE at the University of Galway. 

Following this line of work, after her postdoc in the science education programme called Cell Explorers where she conducted a study on Children’s Attitudes to Science and Scientists. was awarded the H2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie postdoctoral fellowship with the project no. 101027291 ENCOUNTER: Experiences of Youth in Natural Mentoring Relationships that she currently conducts in the Faculty of Humanities at Charles University in Prague. Project ENCOUNTER explores young people’s perceptions and experiences of their natural mentoring relationships and subsequently gives recommendations for youth-initiated approaches in formal mentoring programmes. Project ENCOUNTER applies innovative youth-centered research methods that provide a space, time and youth-friendly means of communication to young people so their voices can be heard, considered, and incorporated into youth mentoring social services. It is innovative as it addresses the gaps in current knowledge on youth mentoring principles, e.g. how mentors and mentees interact with each other and what is the content of their interaction that is perceived as beneficial by mentees, from a youth-centred perspective. The project includes teaching and training BA students at Charles University in Mentoring for Children and Youth module concerning the youth mentoring literature, youth-centred research methods, and debates, Six BA students also participate in the project ENCOUNTER as research assistants while conducting their BA research projects on the ENCOUNTER themes. Tereza also organises workshops for professionals in the field of youth mentoring in social services and schools to co-create the handbook and the toolbox on the project ENCOUNTER results and their implementation in the youth-centred mentoring practices in the Czech and Slovak context. 

Her current work specializes in children’s studies with a focus on children and youth’s daily experiences and perceptions of different social phenomena, such as youth mentoring relationships; and on child-centered participatory and arts-based research methods. This includes the Children & Youth Perspectives Conference: Theory, Research, and Practice she is co-organizing under project ENCOUNTER funding and in cooperation with the Faculty of Humanities, Faculty of Social Sciences, and Faculty of Arts of Charles University on 14th – 15th September 2023 in Prague. The Call for abstracts is currently still open until 31st March 2023. It is an interdisciplinary conference that involves leading keynotes from the field of Children’s/Childhood studies, academics, policy-makers, professionals, and practitioners with children and young people, including youth mentoring stakeholders. 

Her most professionally challenging experience was working in the context of the Ukrainian war crisis in the Czech schools and with young Ukrainian refugees affected and traumatized by the Ukrainian war that started during the project ENCOUNTER’s fieldwork in February 2022. According to Save the Children, children living in war-affected countries are in a constant state of fear, experiencing grave violations of their rights, with serious impacts on their mental and physical health. This did not deter Tereza but rather propel her to motivate young people to have their voices heard as participants in the project ENCOUNTER with sensitive consideration to their experience in this context. 

According to Tereza, the most rewarding aspect of her work was experiencing children relay their stories and experiences in a child-centred, playful mode of communication through arts-based participatory research methods. She truly loves working with children for the betterment of future generations. In particular, she finds awareness and active inclusion of their experiences, perspectives, and ideas in society, advocacy for and empowerment of children and youths as active society members a very important and significant part of her work.

She mentioned that her academic supervisors were also her mentors who supported her mainly through her master’s research study, and also during her doctoral research and currently in the MSCA fellowship. She learned during this process the importance of support and guidance from people who are more experienced in the field of common interest, which is essentially what mentoring is at its core. Furthermore, she tries to support her students similarly to these previous experiences. 

In conclusion, Tereza has put her heart into ensuring that the youth have a better life – that their experiences and perspectives actively matter in the society they live. Once a volunteer mentor herself in the Czech BBBS programme and a mentee in the academic context, she has directed her energy into researching the impact of mentorship and also her becoming a mentor. 

Currently, she is inviting all mentoring stakeholders to take part in a Call for Abstracts for the Children and Youth Perspectives Conference: Theory, Research, and Practice. To contribute to the current discussion on a child-centred perspective in the field of youth mentoring and other child-and-youth-centred practices in the EU and the Czech context, the call is open until March 31st.

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