interVivos recognizes the importance of supporting one another in creating a sense of belonging for all—which is why we strive to create programs and events that can help build this sense in the Edmonton community. 

In Fall 2020, we launched our very first mentorship program to showcase Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) volunteer mentors. There are unique challenges and opportunities associated with being a BIPOC professional in Edmonton. One of our Fall 2020 Mentors, Keenan Pascal, recently shared about his own challenges in an Edmonton Journal article, “A lot of times you’re like the only Black guy in the room in a lot of these professional circles. It’s just (the) reality. In the beginning, you’re a little shyer, you’re a little, like, ‘Nobody looks like me,’ they don’t have the same background to connect. It kind of forced me to quickly evolve in terms of having to be more outgoing. I can’t sit in the back and be the quiet Black guy. You’ve got to put your hand up and get noticed.” 

interVivos endeavours to create a safe space for our participants to share these experiences. For our BIPOC program, we recognized that some of our mentors and protégés may wish to discuss the challenges of being BIPOC or may simply want to learn more about these experiences. We welcomed this critical dialogue and even created a unique BIPOC Resources List for our program participants to help them get more informed, find additional support, or connect with other community organizations engaging in these critical conversations. 

One volunteer mentor shared about the safe space that interVivos created: “Really impressed with how this process rolled out and the thought and intention behind it. It is great to see the board, already a very diverse group of young women, driven to take diversity and inclusion training to ensure the program addresses any potential power mishap. I’ve personally been in networking and mentorship events/programs where mentors grossly abused their position given the stage and power dynamics that were intentionally set up to be highly imbalanced. Not once did I feel uncomfortable, and I did feel everyone was valued and appreciated, whether they are mentors or protéges”.

At interVivos, we desire to put the utmost care and attention into our programs and events to empower the next generation of leaders. We continue to do this by engaging with the community, participating in training, and sharing our resources with Edmontonians like you.  If you have ideas for other resources to include or have something you’d like to teach us, please send an email to mentorship@intervivos.ca. We would love to connect with you! 

Are you interested in participating in a future mentorship program? Sign up for our mailing list and never miss an update! 

Nicole Rodriguez, a University of Alberta student, has participated as a protégé with interVivos for three programs, including the recent Fall 2020 Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) mentor-focused program. We had a virtual chat with Nicole to find out why she keeps on coming back and why other post-secondary students should also take a chance and sign up for a future program. 

Nicole’s highlight of being an interVivos protégé :

When I first registered as a protégé, I had just graduated with my undergraduate degree. I didn’t know what to do next with my education. I felt terrified because I thought that I was falling behind. 

However, meeting incredible mentors, all with diverse sets of experiences and past challenges, changed how I saw progress and my career. And so, to answer your question, I would say the highlight of being a protégé was learning about the career journeys of all of my mentors. They taught me that it is okay to get stuck, to learn to be comfortable with uncertainty and to pause and ask ourselves what the next step that I can take is. I learned from my interVivos mentors that careers are not linear, and just because you decide to take a path does not mean you will be forced to stay there forever. Our values and passions evolve, which might mean that our minds and directions will change, and that’s okay!

She shared how her experience with interVivos helped her grow: 

I am so thankful for interVivos because I have met amazing mentors who listen to understand and support the stage I am in. Dr. Bonnieca Islam, my first ever interVivos mentor, taught me the importance of the decision-making process. That is, sometimes what is easy is not always what is best. My next mentor, Beata Montgomery, taught me that creativity thrives in the space of non-judgment and that vulnerability is a strength. Mike Zouhri, my current mentor, is challenging me to test my ideas and consider various perspectives to develop innovative solutions. 

I owe a lot of my growth to my interVivos mentors. And to think that these are brilliant individuals who are freely giving their time without conditions inspires me to do my best and contribute my skills to our community! I hope there is a phrase higher than “thank you” for expressing how incredibly grateful I am for them.

Why she thinks post-secondary students should sign up as interVivos protégés:

By matching protégés with mentors, the interVivos mentorship program helps students explore potential career options and learn how to apply their education, training, and experiences. The program also helps them expand their network and get to know other professionals in their field of interest. By talking to mentors,  students can increase their confidence in their chosen topics, from problem-solving, communication skills, networking, and leadership skills.

What motivates her to keep on signing up as an interVivos protégé:

There is nothing more exciting than the idea that I will meet another brilliant mentor who is excited to walk with me in exploring ideas and career-related challenges! I feel that it is an honour to have this opportunity, and I would not miss it for the world! Again, the fact that these are volunteer mentors already tells so much about how passionate they are about helping others succeed. 

I believe we are all lifelong learners and that the best way to learn is through engaging and forming community with others, and interVivos is a fantastic platform for that!

We also talked about her current involvement with our BIPOC mentor focused program:

We must celebrate our amazing BIPOC mentors in Edmonton, people who have different identities, experiences and come from diverse backgrounds. Having BIPOC mentors and celebrating their contributions to our community makes me feel a person of colour. I am so grateful to my current mentor, Mike Zouhri. My mentorship feels very collaborative, and I always learn something new every meeting! I am thankful my current mentor listens, adds to, and even challenges my ideas. I feel that I am still in an open and safe space of non-judgment. 

Nicole also shared her best tips for students to benefit from the interVivos mentorship program:

  • Take time also to get to know your mentors. 
  • Do not be afraid to share your “stuck points” and challenges you are currently facing. 
  • Be prepared during mentorship meetings, give them specific updates, and continuously show appreciation! 

Follow us on social media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter) or join our mailing list so you don’t miss out on your chance to register as a protégé.    

At interVivos, our mission is to cultivate leadership and impact our community through dialogue, engagement, mentorship programs, and events. Community partnerships play a crucial role in making this happen. 

Last year, Park Power joined interVivos as the Presenting Sponsor for our Fall 2020 Mentorship Program. They are a friendly local business that provides electricity, natural gas, and internet services to Albertans and that also believes in building our community through community involvement.      

Before our Fall Program Launch, we spoke with the owner and founder of Park Power, Kris Kasawski, to learn more about him. 

Kris is a family man, entrepreneur, and community builder. He first got involved with interVivos as a mentor in the Spring 2016 Mentorship Program. We asked him to share more about his experience as one of our mentors. “I enjoyed the speed rotation format. It was a fun experience because it forced you to dig into it with the protégé and get a rank of each other.”

He sees the importance of mentors. “[Mentors] can help you evaluate what you’re doing. They can share their successes, mistakes, how they’ve grown, and pass the knowledge onto their protégés. Life is a long game. Protégés can get advice from those who have lived through longer.”

For our Fall 2020 Program, we chose to showcase Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (or BIPOC) mentors and share the impressive work they do right here in Edmonton. 

Kris was thrilled to help highlight these diverse leaders in the Edmonton community. He understands the importance of connecting mentors and protégés with different backgrounds. “Everyone has their own implicit biases and environments. These matches can help challenge these barriers and biases. We can build more community capacity and increase inclusiveness.”  

Kris is a loyal supporter of interVivos ever since getting involved as a mentor. He has attended many of our community engagement events and has even spoken at some of our events, including this Program Launch! 

We are so grateful that he believes in the work of interVivos. Thank you, Kris Kasawski and Park Power, for your sponsorship of our Fall 2020 Mentorship Program. We look forward to many more opportunities to partner with community leaders like you to impact the city of Edmonton! 

To find out about how you can support us, please email connect@intervivos.ca.

interVivos and our community rely on the small businesses at the heart of them. 2020 has been a tumultuous time for our small businesses with the impacts of COVID-19. 

Small businesses provide character and individuality to a community. They benefit their local communities in many concrete, quantifiable ways. Specifically, if you spend $100 at a local business, roughly $68 stays within the local economy.

Effective Dec. 13, some businesses will be required to close, reduce capacity, or limit their in-person access. These small businesses need our support more than ever as they’ve to pivot. Buy gift cards for friends and family, buy gift cards for your use in the spring, purchase packages and kit, write positive social media reviews, like their social media posts, post about them on your Instagram stories, access their curbside offerings, get delivery, etc.

During the Fall 2020 mentorship program launch, participants shared their favourite local business names. Check out the list below. You might discover a new gem in your backyard that you can support during the holiday season in 2020 and in 2021! We have also included our remarkable Fall 2020 program sponsors in this list. The interVivos board has even added their picks.

Remember to continue practicing safe social distancing, frequent hand washing, and following the guidelines put in place to keep everyone safe. 

Retail

Restaurants and Cafes

Other Amazing Businesses

🎙️ Listen to Fall 2020 Mentor Shani Gwin talk about the BIPOC focussed mentorship program on Edmonton AM: interVivos looks to bridge the diversity gap at work (December 2020)

Shani and Teneya Gwin are a part of our first-ever Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (or BIPOC) focused mentor program. They’re also the first set of sisters to participate as mentors with interVivos. We are celebrating these milestones by showcasing them on our blog. Read below to find out more about the Gwin Sisters. We had the pleasure of having a physically-distanced interview with them in early November 2020.

Here is what they told us about their roles in the business world:

Teneya: We chose career paths that complement each other, and we can partner on projects. Being raised in a proud Métis family, we both knew it was essential to break down barriers and create spaces and platforms for Indigenous voices. There are probably very few times when we are together that we don’t bounce business or project ideas off of one another, and I admire her advice.

Shani: I’m proud of us. To think how far we’ve come in our journey from five years ago, there’s a lot to celebrate. As Teneya mentioned, our careers work well together, so it’s been a lot of fun and because we are sisters; we get to be brutally honest. It can be deadly! We help each other grow and see new parts in the work. I value Teneya’s insight. She recently trained some of my staff and she’s so great at what she does. We do have many mentors, Elders, and leaders we get to work with and learn from everyday. I’m very grateful to them all for their support and for sharing their knowledge with us.

We also asked about the best career decisions they have made: 

Teneya: The best career decision I have made was to leave a corporate organization and start my own consulting company. On my own, I had to believe in my skills, and I was finally able to see my strengths. I felt I was always trying to sell my services and explain why the Indigenous perspective was critical in my corporate role. Once I made the terrifying decision to go on my own, my entire life changed personally and professionally. The amount of growth I have gone through in 4.5 years is bananas!

Shani: I agree. Leaving my government job to focus on Indigenous communities, organizations, and projects was the best decision I made. It was scary to leave a salary, benefits and paid vacation, but I went for it, and thankfully, I haven’t regretted it. There comes a time when you have to make a leap of faith as an entrepreneur. It is a lot of work to make it happen, and I took it as far as possible while still working my other fulltime job. I appreciate the support and mentorship from Chief Tony Alexis during that time and even today. He was very influential to that decision and continues to champion me and the work I do. Ishnish Chief Alexis.

Then, we delved into the common challenges that they see in their work:

Shani and Teneya: When we come up against resistance, typically we find that the challenge is really about the other party not knowing or lacking general awareness about the issue at hand or the history between Indigenous people and Canada. There’s a lot of groundwork that goes into mitigating that resistance. We find that we are educating and sharing knowledge before we can even work on the initial problem. Once we can bring in that context, the resistance isn’t as heavy-handed, and we find people are generally more willing to understand and move past it. It’s essential to find someone to lean on when doing this work; it is emotional labour. We are lucky to have each other and help move each other forward because sometimes it can be exhausting.

We wanted to find out about their mentors:

Shani and Teneya: There are so many mentors just in our family that we look up to and rely on for advice. Our mother, Carola Cunningham, has worked in justice, housing, family services, and consulting, specifically with Indigenous communities in Canada and abroad. Our father, Lloyd Gwin, has worked most of his career in skills development, training, and employment for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit across Canada and is very active in the Métis community as a volunteer. Our poppa, Chester Cunningham, founded Native Counselling Services of Alberta and has been critical in representing Indigenous folks in the justice system and was instrumental in decreasing Indigenous people’s incarceration rates. And our Kokum, Florence Gwin, who taught us the importance of education, sharing what little you have with others, and always lead with kindness. These are just a few of those in our family that we wanted to acknowledge. They have the most significant impacts on our lives and how we move forward on our journey.

They also shared how work and self-care go together, especially during the pandemic:

Shani: I was in a meeting the other day, and someone shared the importance of community care over self-care. We can talk all we want about the importance of bubble baths or going for a walk alone, yet many of us will not have the privilege to do those. Community care is helping take the load off others in your community and vice versa. I have two children, my partner works out of the house, and my company is the busiest it’s ever been. I had no time for self-care during the pandemic. I wanted to, but the extent of it was leaving to get groceries alone once my partner was home. During that time, I leaned hard on my community to help. My mom would drop off a meal once in a while, so I had one less thing to worry about.

 My sister took my kids as part of our cohort/bubble so I could get work and housework done. My dad would bring baked treats, and once it was safe to do so, he would babysit my children. Community care was self-care. It’s an important distinction to make. We can build our communities and rely on them when we need them. And vice versa. We delivered groceries and necessities to my parents during the pandemic; we brought over meals, and FaceTimed them with the kids. We had ‘bring your own hot dog’ fires outside with them once it was warmer. This was our way of taking care of them and their mental health during a difficult time.

Teneya: During this pandemic, it has been extremely challenging for me to find time for self-care, and I need to make more time for this. Unfortunately, most of my work takes place during naptime, and once my child is in bed for the night it’s exhausting, but I know I’m not alone. My partner works out of town and is a business owner himself, so we both know the importance of hard work.

I am mindful of when I feel lighter, and those moments are when I’m with my family, doorstop visits with my friends, tea and cookies with my parents, and backyard fun with my sister and her kids. These moments are my self-care, being with those that I love. As you can tell by our responses, our cups are filled with community care; it’s a great example of why we chose the career paths we did. 

Teneya is a first-time mentor with us, and we are thrilled to have Shani as a repeat mentor! We asked what they think is the role of a mentor:

Teneya: I value the importance of building relationships; as a mentor, I am excited to learn from and exchange ideas with my protégé. I have hired and worked alongside so many incredible people; seeing their growth or catching up from time to time makes me honoured to have been part of their journey, and I hope to do the same through this process.

Shani: I love meeting and connecting with new people and seeing people I know and care about succeed. This is an excellent opportunity for me to keep sharing my knowledge with others, but also I get to learn so much from my protégé. Their perspectives and expertise are just as valuable to me. My first interVivos mentorship experience was a perfect match. We were on different career paths, which made it enjoyable. I learned about the tech industry and the innovative projects they were working on, and I shared my skillset with them to help build their career. I found it extremely rewarding, and we are still in touch. We just worked on getting their company some air time on CBC radio.

 

If you’re interested in being a volunteer mentor with interVivos in 2021,  please email mentorship@intervivos.ca. We are always looking for diverse mentors from all professional backgrounds. Stay tuned to our social media to find out more about the journeys of the Gwin sisters as mentors with our program.

Mentorship makes a difference. If you look through our blog, you’ll find plenty of reasons why having someone tell you that you are on the right track is a big deal. There is something to be said about connecting with a mentor who has had similar experiences as you, especially for professionals who are Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (or BIPOC). 

interVivos has chosen to highlight many amazing BIPOC volunteer mentors in Edmonton for our Fall 2020 Mentorship Program Launch to help amplify these community voices. 

When we asked one of our former interVivos mentors, Dr. Bonnieca ‘Bonnie’ Islam, about her thoughts on the impact of having more BIPOC individuals in leadership positions, she said that “it would give BIPOC individuals, especially females, more confidence to apply for these positions.” Speaking from her own experience, she said, “I have turned down opportunities in the past due to my lack of confidence in my abilities and questioned ‘why would people listen to a young-looking brown female?’”

Being a BIPOC professional brings its unique challenges in career development. BIPOC individuals are underrepresented in leadership positions. Systemic oppression makes it possible for others to make assumptions about your character, punctuality, or work ethic based on your skin colour. It can be incredibly challenging to navigate these barriers to success without the help of a mentor who understands your experience. 

As a former mentor, Bonnie shared, “I do believe mentors can share their struggles but also their accomplishments. Encourage the protégés that their race or gender should not hold them back. I always like to point out to protégés when I did not think race or gender gave me any disadvantage.” 

A relationship with a mentor who has also struggled with barriers and glass ceilings in their leadership journey is invaluable to a protégé. The insight from the mentor not only shows the protégé that it’s possible to move up, but the mentor can also offer tools to help overcome these challenges. When more BIPOC mentors exist, more BIPOC people will rise to leadership positions. 

Jason Syvixay, one of our Summer 2020 mentors and Fall 2020 Program Launch emcee, says, “Creating space for BIPOC individuals to meet, to gather, to connect, and to share stories may help in creating networks of support and amplify perspectives within an organization or workplace.”

With this program launch, we’re allowing BIPOC mentors with different backgrounds and perspectives to connect and empower the next generation of leaders. This is especially important as it will help increase the diversity of the leadership teams who will become the future decision-makers. 

To find out more about our BIPOC mentorship program, please view the program FAQs on our blog. You can register to be a protégé by visiting: https://intervivosfall2020.eventbrite.ca/

interVivos is pleased to welcome two youth interns. The interns joined the board at our September 2020 bi-monthly board meeting as voting board members until March 2021.

We are a placement organization with Volunteer Alberta’s Youth at the Table program and the University of Alberta’s Non-Profit Board Student Internship Program. The youth will be joining our organization to get first-hand experience of how boards work. They will participate in meetings, learn basic non-profit governance, and will each work on a small project connected to our strategic plan.

interVivos has hosted youth board members for several years. We are delighted that one of the previous youth, Madison Lorenz, has been a board member since May 2020 and will be mentoring our youth this year.

Our vision is a generation of inspired and informed leaders. Initiatives such as this support that vision and work to support youth as they transition from their studies to careers. COVID-19 has impacted many people in the community, but in particular youth dealing with so much uncertainty. Our board interns will be participating in the upcoming Fall 2020 mentorship program to build broader connections during this disconnected time. Their mentors will also help them work on their professional goals.

Meet our interns:

Khadija Memon is our Non-Profit Board intern, and she is currently in her third year of an Arts degree in Psychology and Economics. She volunteers with the Peer Support Centre and works as an English Language Facilitator. Originally from Pakistan, she is passionate about diversity and community engagement. 

 

 

 

 

Victoria Pearson is our Youth at the Table intern and graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science specializing in psychology, with a research certificate. She works as a part-time legal assistant and explored launching a Parenting Support Service with a law firm. When Victoria was in school, she started regularly volunteering with her NDP constituency association, which turned into running the association as President.  She then revived the NDP campus club to get more youth involved in politics and established a lasting board framework that allowed the club to continue, even though there is high membership turnover in a school club.

Last year, our friends at the Edmonton Heritage Council (EHC) reached out for our support to pilot a mentorship program for heritage-sector professionals. interVivos immediately saw the value of sharing resources and expertise with EHC and partnered with them to support their goal of elevating diverse voices.

EHC is a local non-profit organization that connects Edmontonians to the stories of their city through leadership, support, and programs. In an effort to build professional capacity for Heritage professionals and to aid with succession and sustainability planning in the sector, interVivos mentored EHC in developing the structure for the program and hosting the mentor and protégé matching event.

Overall, the pilot mentorship program was a success and serves as a great example of how organizations can maximize their resources and experience through sharing.

You can read more about our collaboration with EHC here.

If you are interested in mentorship opportunities in Edmonton, our Summer 2020 mentorship program launches on July 14, 2020. Check out our events page for more information on how to register.

 

On the one year anniversary of our event, A Provincial Affair, we decided to look back at the event and its impact on attendees.

interVivos’ Provincial Election event, A Provincial Affair, was a sell out in April 2019.

We welcomed a diverse crowd of attendees, all of whom share a passion for political action in our community. We were also fortunate to have many first time attendees, including Derek Volker.

Derek was the first person to register for the event. We caught up with him to ask for his thoughts on the event; this is what Derek had to say:

 

Q: This was your first time attending an interVivos event, and you were the first to register. What prompted you to attend the event?

A: An invitation from a board member and also an awareness of events from following interVivos social media.

 

Q: What do you think is the most important political issue facing Albertans?

A: I think the topics selected at the event were a good representation of the important issues.

 

Q: How can others get engaged in the democratic process, and what can we all do to encourage others?

A: Write your MLA or elected official, follow the democratic process in the news, watch Assembly feeds online (including bill debate and not just Question Period), and join an advocacy campaign for an issue you are passionate about. Having conversations is critical, even if just high level. Politics shouldn’t always be avoided as a topic of conversation. That can lead to further polarization and/or lack of engagement if there are never discussions about it.  Respectful conversations can be both informative and engaging.

 

Q: This was your first time at an interVivos event. What did you think?

A: The event was well planned and had good discussions with varying perspectives. I’m looking forward to attending other events in the future.

 

Q: What was your biggest take away from the event?

A: That there are a lot of people who want to engage in policy discussions on matters that may not be the top ballot issues at any given time, but are still important to discuss and for people to be aware of. I.e. getting past the rhetoric of politics and into real policy discussions/debates.

 

Next up for interVivos is our Summer 2020 Mentorship Program launch that will take place virtually on July 14, 2020! Stay tuned for more information and make sure to check our events page often.

Would you like to submit a blog post to interVivos? Email connect@intervivos.ca.

This past fall, we partnered with Apathy is Boring to offer over 100 Edmontonians an exciting nonpartisan federal election viewing party and an evening of drag at Evolution Wonderlounge.

We thought it would be good to ask people at the party: “Why vote?”

Their responses were captured on Post-It Notes and here are some of them:

  • “For a better future for my kids!”
  • “For my future!”
  • “For my family.”
  • “For progress!”
  • “For those who can’t – to make a better future!”
  • “To change the world!”
  • “To effect change in my country!”
  • “To protect human rights!”
  • “To set a good example!”
  • “To feel heard!”
  • “To pursue equality for all!”
  • “Because we are so lucky to have the chance – many do not!”
  • “Because I can – women and minorities didn’t always have the opportunity!”
  • “Because I care about children, education, women, health and climate change!”
  • “Because rights come with responsibilities!”
  • “Because I can!”
  • “Because you and I can make a difference if we all vote!”
  • “Because why not?”
  • “I want to vote for those who can’t.”
  • “It is easy and a way to have your voice heard!”
  • “It is EASY!”
  • “It’s my right!”
  • “It’s my civic duty!”
  • “Democracy is important to me!”
  • “It’s my democratic right! I matter!”

A huge thank you to all attendees, performers, and volunteers for helping make this wonderful night a huge success!

Next up for interVivos is our Summer 2020 Mentorship Program launch that will take place virtually on July 14, 2020! Stay tuned for more information and make sure to check our events page often.

Would you like to submit a blog post to interVivos? Email connect@intervivos.ca.