Mentor International meet in Sweden!

Last week, representatives from Mentor International and other national Mentor organizations met in Stockholm to collaborate and share experiences, have exciting conversations, and gather inspiration on how to continue empowering young people.

2 February 2023 | News

H.M. Queen Silvia of Sweden, Founder of Mentor Foundation together with Mentor Foundation USA’s President Gudrun Giddings and Executive Director Minna Madunkova, as well as representatives from Mentor Sweden, Latvia, Germany and Arabia.

Apart from the Mentor Foundation USA, Mentor is also represented in Sweden, Germany, Latvia and the Middle East. Representatives from the respective countries meet regularly to exchange experiences and share knowledge and lessons learned, with the aim of being at the forefront of the work to empower and support youth to make healthy life choices. 

This year, the countries gathered in Stockholm for conversations, inspiring workshops and an art exhibition at the Moderna Museet, where the participants got an insight into the courses that the museum offers for children and young people. Among other things, they learned how the museum has been working with a youth council since 2020 to increase young people’s influence in the business. They also got to try some artwork themselves, exploring different artistic techniques in one of the museum’s workshops normally held for children and young people.

During the conference, we took the opportunity to exchange a few words with representatives from all countries. Gudrun Giddings, President of Mentor Foundation USA, is originally from Sweden but is stationed in Los Angeles where she leads Mentor’s operations.

I bring with me enormous inspiration and energy from my days with Mentor International. It was a reminder of the importance of listening to and helping young people work on their self-esteem and self-confidence, not least in the wake of the pandemic.

- Gudrun Giddings

What does Mentor’s business in the US look like?
We operate very similarly to the way you do at Mentor Sweden. Among other things, we work with recurring school visits such as Mentor Inspo and afterschool programs. We also organize a competition called “Living the example”, which has been incredibly popular, where young people can act as role models for each other and show why they deserve the title, says Giddings.

What are the most important lessons you take with you from your days in Stockholm?
I bring with me enormous inspiration and energy from my days with Mentor International. It was a reminder of the importance of listening to and helping young people work on their self-esteem and self-confidence, not least in the wake of the pandemic. Today, Mentor’s activities are needed more than ever before, concludes Giddings.

On site to represent Mentor’s operations in the Middle East was, among others, Bechara Ghaoui, deputy director of Mentor Arabia.

How has the development looked in your region recently?
Here at Mentor Arabia, our top priority has been to recover from the effects of the pandemic. But despite the challenges, we have succeeded in deepening our operations in e.g. Lebanon and Jordan. H. M. Queen Silvia’s visit to Jordan last year, where she visited a girls’ school in Amman together with the Mentor delegation, was a welcomed boost that helped us establish more partnerships. We have also opened a national office in Jordan, which is a big step for our development going forward, says Ghaoui.

What has been the highlight during the visit with the other countries?
During the days together with Mentor International we had the opportunity to learn from each other’s experiences, differences and areas of knowledge. I am highly motivated to continue our collaboration together, says Ghaoui.

In Mentor’s operations in Germany, pedagogue Agnes Wehr is involved and leads the work, which includes school visits and inspirational lectures for young people.

What is your strongest insight from the past few days?
It has been extremely rewarding to gain greater insight into how the other countries work to unlock the potential of young people. Many of us are facing similar challenges and therefore it is valuable to talk and learn from each other, says Wehr.

In Latvia, Mentor’s operations have chosen to focus on young people with special needs. We spoke to the country’s program manager Ulla Zumente Steele and let her tell us more:

In Latvia, we work with young people between the ages of 13 and 21 who, for whatever reason, lack the support of their biological parents. Many live in youth homes or with foster families. We offer them a one-year mentorship where they are matched with adult role models, just like in Sweden. We always strive to tailor the mentorship based on the youth’s own needs and interests, explains Zumente Steele.

What are your goals for the future?
Going forward, we want to continue to develop and, among other things, hopefully see a growing demand for group mentoring. There we draw inspiration from Mentor Sweden and hope to broaden the range in the near future, concludes Zumente Steele.

The stay in Sweden ended with a visit by Mentor International’s founder H.M. Queen Silvia, who is also an honorary member of Mentor Sweden’s board. H.M. Queen Silvia was welcomed to Mentor Sweden’s office in Gamla Stan, where all international representatives as well as colleagues in Stockholm gathered for a meeting.

Thank you to mentor Sweden for writing the article and hosting the conference. At Mentor Foundation USA we are grateful for the inspiring conference and all of our amazing colleagues around the world. We look forward to the work ahead together with our Mentor Family!

Thank you to all of our wonderful colleagues around the world!