wild voices blog

Mentors Making a Difference: Phoebe and David’s Journey with CoalitionWILD

By Cidee Despi

At CoalitionWILD, we believe in the power of mentorship and the transformative impact it can have on the lives of young conservationists. Here, we shine a spotlight on two exceptional repeat mentors, Phoebe Barnard and David Manski, who have been actively involved in our Global Mentorship Program. Their dedication, wisdom, and passion for conservation have inspired and guided numerous young professionals on their journey to become future leaders in the field. 

When asked about what inspired them to become mentors and what motivates them to continue mentoring young people in conservation, both Phoebe and David shared compelling stories. David expressed his gratitude for the mentors who guided him during his early career and how he wanted to pay it forward by providing guidance, friendship, and opportunities for others. He said, “I’ve been very lucky during my early working years to have had older and more experienced individuals take an interest in my career. This was incredibly helpful to me and I’ve wanted to give others the same opportunities I had for guidance and friendship.”

Phoebe, on the other hand, emphasized the importance of creating a supportive network and helping young professionals navigate the challenges they face in the conservation field. She explained, “These are incredibly important times to be alive, to be leaders and to make transformative change. We need all hands on deck, and I can help young professionals work on urgent solutions not only in conservation but in the related work of global Earth and climate repair.”

Years of mentoring have taught Phoebe and David valuable lessons that have shaped their personal and professional growth. David highlighted the realization that personal and professional challenges are universal, regardless of cultural or political differences. This understanding has given him comfort and provided valuable insights into managing his own work and personal life. He shared, “Over my many years of working in the United States and internationally, I’ve come to realize that all of us share many of the same kind of personal and professional challenges. The only difference is that they occur in different political and cultural landscapes. Knowing that I’m not all alone in trying to manage and address these issues has been comforting.”

Phoebe echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the importance of sharing life experiences and celebrating the diverse journeys of individuals in the conservation community. She said, “A good mentorship relationship is two-way. It’s humble. It’s warm and friendly, more than analytical or structured. Like most people, mentees searching for guidance need to feel heard and supported. I’ve learned so much about these very basic truths in the past three decades.”Building a strong relationship with mentees is a key aspect of effective mentorship. Phoebe emphasized the significance of understanding the personal stories of her mentees, including their interests, family life, and cultural backgrounds. By establishing a personal connection, she creates a safe and supportive space for mentees to discuss their challenges and aspirations. She explained, “It is very important for me to get to know my mentee’s personal life story, such as their interests, family/home life, and the cultural setting in which they live. I want to get to know them as a person and about the lives they are living.”

David, on the other hand, prioritizes active listening and asking thought-provoking questions that encourage mentees to explore their own ideas and solutions. He believes in providing a supportive environment where mentees can reflect on their choices and pathways. He shared, “I listen more than I talk and frequently ask my mentee questions to reflect on – allowing them to explore various ideas, solutions, strategies, rather than me giving specific recommendations.”

Making the Most of the Mentorship Experience
For those considering becoming mentors, Phoebe and David offer valuable advice. They believe that mentorship is a lifelong commitment, even after retiring, and that every individual has something valuable to contribute to the next generation of conservation leaders. Phoebe encourages individuals to work in groups if possible, as the peer learning from groups can be a rich opportunity. She said, “Every one of us can be a mentor, and let it be a two-way process. Work in groups if you can. The peer learning from groups can itself be a rich opportunity.”

David believes that being a mentor is tremendously rewarding and offers an opportunity for personal growth. He expressed his gratitude for the Global Mentorship Program, saying, “I’ve been so fortunate over the last five years of participating in the Global Mentorship program to have met so many talented, inspiring, and passionate early career conservation professionals. I’ve learned something new from each of my mentees and gained new friendships from around the world.”Phoebe and David’s journey as mentors in the Global Mentorship Program exemplifies the profound impact that mentorship can have on young conservationists. Their dedication, empathy, and willingness to share their wisdom have helped shape the future of conservation leadership. At CoalitionWILD, we are grateful for mentors like Phoebe and David who continue to make a difference by guiding and inspiring the next generation of environmental champions.

If you’re interested in becoming a mentor, visit our website at https://wild.org/coalitionwild. Together, let’s create lasting youth leadership for the planet.


Cidee Despi

Cidee Despi

Communications and Marketing Officer

Cidee Despi hopes to embody compassion that inspires action. As a development sector professional, she is committed to making social impact where she can, especially when it comes to her areas of interest: the youth, gender and development, and social justice to name a few. She has occupied various roles, from communications and partnerships to project and program management, all in support of impact-driven organizations. On the side, she writes about culture and politics. Currently, she is pursuing her law degree at the University of the Philippines.

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