Spotlight on International Development

What motivates a person to work in the non-profit sector? How does mentoring and Mentor affect us all? What exactly is international development in the context of Mentor?

24 March 2022 | Blog

Photo: Vera Mendum-Purdy

Mentor’s International Intern, Hope Livesay, sat down with Elise Alpen via Teams to learn more about the person behind the international development role and how Mentor is a good platform for making a difference. 

Hope: To start with, what exactly does it mean to be the Mentor International Development Director? 

Elise: It means having a broad focus and being globally connected. The international development role is essentially the central connection point for Mentor’s independent member organisations and gatekeeper for the branding, mission, vision, and core programs. It also supports with strong communications, networking, cross-organisational coordination, mentoring tools, and increased partner value. Possibly most importantly, it gathers and shares best practices, such as impact measurement, to ensure the likelihood that Mentor will have a similar approach to youth engagement in local communities around the world.

Hope: How long have you been working at Mentor?

Elise: I’ve been working at Mentor since 2018 but started volunteering in 2017.

Hope: How did you learn about Mentor from the beginning?

Elise: In 2015, Sweden had the highest number of asylum seekers ever. The total immigration reached a record level in 2016, with levels reaching a new high in 2017. This made a huge impression on me. I felt so disconnected and far removed from this wave of young people who were arriving, but felt a strong need to get to know and understand them. I sought out ways to connect, get involved and was introduced to Mentor.

Hope: What drew you to Mentor?

Elise: It was the purpose of Mentor that drew me in. I believe strongly in the importance of integration and inclusion, both for the future of young people, but also for the good of a well-functioning society. I applied to become a mentor, was interviewed and got matched with a young girl. Working as a youth mentor volunteer led me to help out internationally with English communications, which led me to where I am now.

Hope: Did you have a mentor during your youth? 

Elise: I actually did. I had many. I think most people do, whether they realise it or not. One memorable example was through a summer job during college. I was introduced to high powered lawyer in Washington, DC, who, as it turns out, was not just a lawyer but also community volunteer working with homeless people. He was one of the only lawyers in the firm who took time to talk to a college student working in the reception of his law firm. He taught me the importance of acknowledging people and meeting them where they are, reaching out, letting them know they matter. He volunteered with the homeless community and took me to a homeless shelter. He told me to do good. I still have the good luck charm he gave me for my journey through life. His lessons and influence have stuck with me.

Hope: What qualities that your mentor had were the biggest help to your growth? 

Elise: This particular mentor was open-minded, generous, humble and authentic. That made a deep impression. Just to put it in perspective, he was a partner in a corporate law firm. He had so many responsibilities. He did not need to include mentoring me. Nevertheless, he saw me, reached out and helped create a future he wanted to see. He changed my outlook on humanity and helped inform the way I live my life to this day.

Hope: What is your biggest dream for Mentor International? 

Elise: My biggest dream is that all the Mentor youth who have ever gone through our mentoring programs could be part of a network that spreads a continuous positive ripple effect through society, starting as a mentee and ending up as a mentor and that we could we have access to this network and measure that effect. That would be incredibly powerful, and I would be thrilled to see that!

Hope: Why are youth important to invest in?

Elise: Youth are our future. We should invest in our future.

Hope: What tools does Mentor offer for the youth involved?

Elise: Mentor offers everyone – youth and adult volunteers – life skills, social capital and a personal context, things that could easily be missed along the way. Mentor helps people find positive meaning and a way to positively contribute to society by forming relationships and creating coaching opportunities. As it says on the Mentor International website: life, should be devoted to helping others as much as possible. Mentoring tools help people and are continuously passed from here.

Hope: If Mentor had more funding, what programs would you love to see happen?

Elise: Since Mentor International does not run programs per se, but rather helps develop and support our national organisation’s youth mentoring programs, I would love to have more funding to invest so our member countries could better measure how their programs impact youth and their communities. Hopefully, also to understand what changes need to be made ro make those programs even more successful!

Hope: Thank you, Elise. I found this helpful and interesting and think others will too!

For more information, feel free to get in touch with Elise directly.