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Davis Journal

Mentor International helps those in developing countries

Feb 27, 2023 09:14AM ● By Becky Ginos

FRONT: Mentors work one-on-one with individuals and business owners to teach them the skills they need to be successful. Courtesy photo

BOUNTIFUL—An organization made up of mostly volunteers is making a difference in developing countries across Latin America, Africa and Asia by mentoring the people there to pull them out of poverty and to give them the skills to be successful. Many of those volunteers live right here in Davis County and give of their time to lift others up.

Mentors International works in-country through one-on-one mentoring and vocational training to help individuals, families and businesses to become self-sufficient.

“We’re trying to shift the paradigm for individuals and get them to a better place,” said Curtis Beesley, the President of Mentors International who lives in North Salt Lake. “Mentors teach them English, basic computer skills, how to increase their income, develop savings and reduce personal debt. Even developing countries develop debt.”

It’s a three legged stool, he said. “That’s the mentoring piece and the second leg is vocational job training and the third leg is micro lending and financing a small loan. The average loan is $150.”

Beesley said the organization was already investing in virtual technology before the pandemic. “Nobody knew until 2020 and we had to turn on a dime. In several days we were able to teach courses online.”

Students don’t pay for courses in currency, he said. “They have to perform 40 hours of service. That gives them some skin in the game to better themselves. It’s not a hand out it's a hand up.”

“I started in 2018 then joined the board of mentors,” said Board Chair Curtis Oscarson. “Lifting a generation is cause for hope one life at a time.”

The organization recently merged with Elevate Global, “an innovative provider of small business training, in-field operations technology and real-time impact measurement in Latin America,” according to Mentor International.

“We’re four times bigger than three years ago,” Oscarson said. “It brings in a lot of money from donors that is going to people in poverty.”

“Most employees are hired in-country,” said Board Member Liz Mumford, who also serves as Davis District School Board President. “It gives them good jobs that are stable. I love meeting with the mentors and visiting the different clients they’re serving.”

Mumford said she got started with the organization as a donor family several years ago. “I was impressed so I got more involved and then joined the board. I traveled to the Philippines and Guatemala and have Cambodia coming up. Meeting with the clients was the emotional part and it sealed the deal for me.”

In the Philippines mentors help business entrepreneurs with market strategies like buying in bulk, she said. “It moves the street vendor to a store. In Guatemala they’re teaching them about irrigation and seasonal crops. There’s a variety of things with each country depending on that area.”

The Executive Board has five members, said Mumford. “Everyone is a volunteer. There are only a few employees in the states. It’s a small group. We deploy most of the resources in-country.”

Mumford said in her work in schools and other areas she sees that people want to take care of their own communities first then they are looking beyond to serve all around the world. “We work with amazing people as mentors.”

“This is the best thing I’ve ever done,” said Beesley. “It’s not for money – it’s for the people we’re serving. That's why I do it.”