“This experience has changed my life”

“The mentors unfolded a world of new opportunities and knowledge to me. Soon, I found myself opening up and sharing my thoughts without any hesitation or fear of judgement,” says Ledi Selgjekaj from Albania. The young conservationist embarked on the mentoring adventure along with nineteen other people from a total of ten countries in the Mediterranean region.

The magic of listening

People listen to a lecture and make notes
© MAVA Academy

“In nature conservation, there is nothing we need more urgently than strong personalities who are confident within themselves, open-minded, can inspire others and are not discouraged by setbacks. With the mentoring programme, we want to support conservationists, above all, in their personal development,” says Leonie Kraut, Head of Administration at EuroNatur, who helped develop and now coordinates the programme. “We got the great opportunity to work, not only on our nature protection topics, but also on our own self-reflection. We learned how to transfer knowledge and experience,” affirms Aleksandra-Anja Dragomirović, from EuroNatur partner organisation CZZS in Bosnia and Herzegovina, who was there as a mentor. Along with her mentee, Ledi Selgjekaj, she tackled questions such as “what are my values, what is important to me, and how can I lead a team on an equal level?”

  • About the mentoring programme

    Participants of the MAVA Academy in 2022

    Participants of the MAVA Academy in 2022

    © Thibaut-Branquart - Grand Nord films

    We recognised how important it is to create space for self-reflection and relaxation, even when under great pressure. The mentoring programme and the Nature Academy - which the MAVA Foundation ran for the first time in 2017 - have helped with this. New platforms have been created for us to network with MAVA conservation partners, learn together, and evolve. The special mentoring programme for conservation partners of EuroNatur and the MAVA Foundation in the Mediterranean region (Mentoring for Effective Nature Conservation (MENC)), was the first of its kind to be set up by EuroNatur, with the support of experts from Mowgli Mentoring. In 2022, ten mentoring pairs from a total of eleven organisations across ten different countries took part. In addition to one-to-one meetings between the mentors and their mentees, there were regular opportunities for exchange within the group. A continuation of the programme and its expansion to other European countries is planned. The aim is to further strengthen conservationists in Europe.

For Leonie Kraut, the biggest challenge was putting together the mentoring pairs, which involved matching people who were a good fit for one another. “We only had the application documents and ten-minute interviews as the basis for our decision. It makes me happy to see how well we succeeded,” she says happily. “Everyone I talked to was more than satisfied with their mentors. I would really like to know how they did their magic,” says Paula Počanić Vovk from Croatian EuroNatur partner Biom, with a laugh. The magic - even during the application process - involved paying full attention to the other person and creating a safe space in which being authentic was not just possible, but welcomed.

In a professional context, we often focus on technical content. Especially in the conservation scene, selflessness and complete dedication to the cause tend to be the norm. We can quickly lose ourselves in what we want to achieve externally. But personal development is also very important and needs attention.

Leonie Kraut Leonie Kraut from EuroNatur, coordinator of the “Mentoring for Effective Nature Conservation (MENC)” mentoring programme.

“I became more self-confident and open-minded.”

In fact, many of the participants were initially hesitant about engaging in this very personal process. “I don't have time for that!” they kept saying. But even the most sceptical candidates quickly realised how much they were benefiting from the programme. “Mentoring showed me again how important it is to have people who actively listen to you from time to time, and take the time to discuss things without prejudice,” says Ines Fantinato, who is responsible for donations management at EuroNatur.  For many, the mentoring programme became a life-changing experience. This was the case for Konstantinos Perikleous, who works as a biologist and environmental scientist for Terra Cypria. “The most important change I observed by participating was that it has helped me to be more confident, open-minded and connect with others on a deeper level.  What surprised me the most was how fast and effective the programme was at changing people for the better!”

I am very grateful that I had this opportunity to meet such extraordinary people who are willing to change the world and make it a better place, starting by developing themselves!

Konstantinos Perikleous Konstantinos Perikleous, Terra Cypria, Cyprus

It was great to be able to organise time in a week to reflect: that is something we rarely have time to do. Just preparing for the sessions with my mentor was so valuable. This is a habit I would like to keep even after our programme ends.

Paula Počanić Vovk Paula Počanić Vovk, Biom, Croatia

At the end of the twelve-month mentoring journey, the feeling that new friendships had been forged was strong. “I realised that many of us come from a different background, work in different positions, are different ages, but still face similar challenges. We connected on a personal level and realised we were going through the same process at the same time,” says Paula Počanić Vovk. “I realised that conservationists are indeed part of a big family,” recounts Ledi Selgjekaj. “This experience has allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and try new approaches. I can confidently say that the skills and perspectives I have gained through this programme will enable me to make a lasting contribution to the nature conservation sector,” she says with certainty. Leonie Kraut also believes that the positive changes which have taken place within the EuroNatur Foundation are huge. And we still have a lot of plans!

I am grateful for the opportunity given to be part of this programme. I believe it is essential that programmes like this continue to exist, as they give professionals the support and preparation they need to ensure the conservation of our nature.

Ledi Selgjekaj Ledi Selgjekaj, PPNEA, Albania
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