Understanding Mentoring Relationships during and after COVID-19 Restrictions from the Perspective of Mentors: A Community-Engaged Participatory Approach




Elgharbawy, Heba

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Amidst the unprecedented challenges and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, youth and young adults have experienced a great deal of stress and challenges. Youth mentorship has been an important resource for many youths and has been shown to be a protective factor against such troubling times. However, mentors’ experiences during the pandemic and its impact on their ability to support youth remains unclear. By fostering resilience and positive outcomes in youth through mentorship, these efforts contribute to the overall well-being and empowerment of youth. This study aimed to understand the impact of COVID-19 on mentorships and mentor experiences, barriers and facilitators of mentorship and virtual mentorship, and the impact of inequity, compatibility, and diversity on mentoring relationships. In partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters Canada, this qualitative study analyzed 20 mentors’ perspectives and experiences within these relationships and how they navigated the pandemic personally and while supporting their young mentee. Five major themes were constructed based on these interviews including; how mentors and mentees maintained their relationships despite the challenges and changing circumstances of the pandemic, personal benefits of mentorship, technological limitations and disparities in access to technology that made virtual mentorship less preferable, how support from those outside of the mentorship including parents and the mentorship program can impact the relationship, and the crucial role of compatibility and cultural discussions in mentorship. These findings have important implications for mentoring organizations including guiding the development of adaptive programs and policies to better support mentors and mentees in navigating challenging circumstances.