International Mentoring Day

Why is becoming a mentor important?

January 17 was chosen as the date to celebrate International Mentoring Day, to commemorate the birthday of boxing legend and global humanitarian, Muhammad Ali. Muhammad Ali lived by six core principles — confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, respect, and spirituality, all of which relate directly to mentoring.

On this day we celebrate the contributions that mentors make, not only to their mentees, but to society at large.

Why is being a mentor important? Here are some statistics. Young adults who have a mentor are:

  • 55% less likely than their peers to skip a day of school
  • 78% more likely to volunteer regularly
  • 90% are interested in becoming a mentor
  • 130% more likely to hold leadership positions

(Taken from Mentor)

In addition, the benefits to mentees are:

  • Increased chance of graduating from high school
  • Healthier relationships with others and make better lifestyle choices
  • Better attitude about school
  • Improved self-esteem, self-confidence, and behavior
  • Less likely to abuse alcohol or drugs

(Taken from National Day Calendar)

But it’s not just the mentees who benefit. Mentors not only feel good about their impact on a young person’s life, they also can gain more inclusive perspectives to problems, and improve communication and leadership skills.

Mentoring Ralph

On International Mentoring Day, Lisa, Mentorship Coordinator at CHV, shares a story of how having a mentor helped a young person pursue their passion.

I was approached by a social worker one day, who was hoping that I could match a young person, named Ralph*, with a mentor. As part of our trauma-informed approach,  Covenant House Vancouver believes that safe relationships are the vehicle by which youth can begin to address and heal from their trauma. The social worker said, “In all likelihood, Ralph won’t stay matched to a mentor for a whole year. He probably won’t want to sign any of the paperwork, and he may have trouble making and getting to the meetings; but I think that this would be very good for him.” So, we went ahead and started the matching journey. When requested, we really try to match a youth to a mentor, because we know that the experience could really benefit the youth.

Ralph required someone who was patient, calm, engaged, and understanding, as well as someone who loved and appreciated art, as that was Ralph’s passion. I discovered a perfect fit. The mentor was a kind, gentle, sweet man that had adopted and raised a special needs son on his own and now that his son had grown up, he was looking to support someone else. The timing was perfect, and I knew that this could be a great match. I don’t know how I have such luck in finding mentors. I feel that the most amazing people who mentor just find us.

The three of us met. I matched Ralph to Ron, and it was one the most amazing matches that I’ve had the privilege of walking along side of. I won’t say that it didn’t come with its challenges, but anything that is worthwhile often does. Not only did they stay matched for over a year, but they have remained in contact, which is amazing when you consider that Ralph initially, only wanted a mentor for three months.

One the sweetest things that I remember Ralph saying to me about his mentor was, “When I was being mentored by Ron, sometimes I just wanted to draw and not talk, and he would just sit with me and watch me, quietly. He was there, silently encouraging me. I can’t really explain it, but it was what I needed.” I also will remember the day I got the call from Ron, who was so excited. “Lisa, Ralph got into the art school that he applied to! I am so proud of him.”

I have to say that after eight years in this position, I am still amazed at how many incredible relationships have developed in the Mentorship Program. I have never stayed in a position this long before, but I could never leave something where I get to see the beauty, the humanity, the hope, the resiliency, and the love, each and each day. This is just one of many matches that I have been privileged enough to walk along side of, and I hope to be a part of more, over the coming years.

*Name of both youth and mentor have been changed to protect their privacy