Edite Zvirbule loves giving back and is determined to help Mentor Latvia continue its youth mentoring for many years to come. I had the pleasure of meeting Edite, a person with contagious passion. I learned more about her vision for Mentor Latvia and how much she really loves her job.
By Cimran Naik, Mentor International Intern
What inspired you to join Mentor Latvia?
In May 2021, I volunteered to be a mentor and was matched with a young girl who I still work closely with today. I thought if I can give support to one young person, what would happen if I engaged with the entire organization? I was so inspired by the idea that if each one of us could support one young person who needs help, our whole community would be a much brighter place.
What makes Mentor’s mission so important to you?
The meaning of life is to do the best that we can for people who are less fortunate than us. There are so many young people in Latvia who do not have any parental support. They are in alternative care centers, foster homes, orphanages and have often lost their parents to drug addiction, death, illness, and other such situations. It is heartbreaking. Mentor connects these young people with highly motivated adults who are ready to spend one year or more with to guide and support them. Mentor changes their lives.
That’s amazing to hear. When did your interest in young people’s well-being begin?
Ha-ha, I like this question very much. Of course, I have two beautiful adult daughters. So, you could say that this was the starting point. Now I am continuing to give all the best that I can give from myself to my mentee, the young teenage girl, and make it possible for many more youth to benefit from mentoring.
What do you do as Executive Director?
My role is to ensure the sustainability and development of Mentor Latvia. I am working very closely with a team of experts who need a sense of stability that they will be able to continue to receive and provide support. This means looking into new ways to support Mentor Latvia and building sustainable partnerships with our financial supporters, to whom I am so grateful.
Can you describe how mentoring works at Mentor Latvia?
Edite: At Mentor Latvia, we offer one to one support for young people who are missing parental support. They have the highest need for us, and we are highly dedicated to them. We match adult women to give support to young girls and adult men to give support to the young boys. So, we are not mixing genders. We have a fantastic Program Director who works directly with each young person – recruiting, training, onboarding, and running monthly activities to support the young people in different ways, where they can get together with their mentor. We have lectures on, for example, how to manage a personal economy, how to deal with emotional and sexual health, how to write a CV, how to apply for jobs etc. We even have group support for mentors to ask questions to professional psychologists. We are the only organisation offering this type of year-long program to support these youth.
What we can offer these young people are chances that they may not have had otherwise in life. If we are in the position to help someone who is less fortunate than us, of course we should do it.
What are your biggest challenges in the workplace?
My biggest challenge is fundraising for the organization. We can only work if we get funding support from sponsors, and this is not a long tradition in Latvia. The financial and energy crisis has made this situation even more challenging to attract sponsors to support the program. The war in Ukraine and COVID situation has resulted in young people needing even more support than before. A lot of young people have mental health issues now. So there so many young people that want mentors, but without the financial support, we cannot expand the program. This is our biggest issue, but I am very optimistic. I know that we have good companies all around us and am very grateful to everyone of who supports our organization.
What is your resolution and goals for new year?
Increased sustainability, visibility, more sponsors, and giving the best support I can give my team. Mentor Latvia needs to be able to plan its future for more than a one year at a time. This depends on financing of course but also recognition.
What is motivates you the most at Mentor?
The young people. Seeing how a year has changed them, how encouraged and motivated they are, how much they are achieving and the power they have to master new tasks. This is so inspiring!
How do you like to relax after work? What are some of your hobbies?
I live near the woods and love to be in the nature. I know it sounds crazy, but I love swimming in cold water even when it’s 9 degrees like it was this weekend. It is the best way to relax. Everything becomes calm and all stress is gone. I also love hiking and was recently in the mountains in Norway. I like reading and can recommend a short, easy read that helped me understand why I have such a passion for mentoring, “Everything I have Learned About Values” by Richard Barrett.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I feel so much respect and gratitude for the people who set up the Mentor Latvia 12 years ago. All these years, people who have cared about the wellbeing of young people, who have worked with mentoring, the people are the greatest value that the Mentor organization has. Young people, mentors, sponsors and so many friendly shoulders. I feel great respect for the work that has been done and am grateful to have the opportunity to continue it for many years to come.