Vegan Starter Guide: Social Support & Mentor Programs

Before becoming vegan myself, I only knew a few others: a couple of coworkers who I chat to and asked questions on occasion, and my good friend David back in Ireland who I used to mock on a regular basis and now finds it very amusing that I’ve finally followed in his pleather-clad footsteps.

For some reason, however, I mostly looked to the expertise and experience of strangers on the Internet and social media when I was making my daily steps towards becoming vegan.

Perhaps I didn’t want to talk to “real” people about something I sometimes wasn’t sure I would actually do. Or perhaps it’s just in keeping with my hermit-like nature to seek out virtual company when I need it and observe from a distance when I don’t. Either way, the vegans I’ve met online have been a lifeline, and one of them has even turned into a real life and really lovely friend (hi Molly!).

If you don’t know any other vegans, or if you’re an Internet lurker like me, there are lots of social support systems to tap into as you initially learn how to be vegan and long after that.

Social Media

Every day brings a new reason to delete my Facebook and Twitter accounts and quit social media for real this time.

At the same time, I really value the Portland Vegans and Dublin Vegans groups I’m part of, and if you’re on Facebook anyhow then I recommend joining your nearest city’s vegan group. I recently visited San Diego for a work-trip and got lots of great recommendations from the San Diego Vegans group. I’m tentatively planning a trip to Japan next year, so I recently joined the Vegan Japan group and am very excited to see that it is possible to eat plant-based in the land of sushi!

Like any online platform, I witness a certain amount of drama, confrontation, and poor communication in these groups, but I ignore that minor element and simply scroll past. Overall, the Facebook groups I’m part of are a huge resource for me, and one of the only reasons I sign in anymore. From restaurant and recipe recommendations to festivals and events or finding out there’s a sale on a certain vegan product at my local grocery store, I learn something new all the time and it’s honestly just nice to know that there are people in your town or city who are out there doing it too.

I’m not overly social on Instagram and am more of a lurker. I rarely comment on total stranger’s pictures and, instead, follow specific hashtags (#VeganIndianFood, #VeganComfortFood, #VeganBooks, etc.) and use it as a resource for finding recipes, food bloggers, recommended reading, or issues related to vegan activism. If you’re into cat pictures or the occasional picture of me dressed like a cat then feel free to follow along, ha!

Vegan Mentor Programs

When I was first becoming vegan, it never occurred to me that there might be such thing as a vegan mentor program–let alone that they’d be free–but indeed there are, and quite a few to boot.

I recently signed up to become a mentor with New Leaf Vegans, a free international program that connects veg-curious and aspiring vegans with one-on-one individualized support. The training was fantastic and I am as inspired and encouraged by my mentees as (I hope) they are by me.

“Whether you’re committed to vegan ethics and protecting animals or you’re seeking a healthier, more earth friendly diet, New Leaf’s mentors will help you reach your goal. They’ll answer your questions, share information and resources, discuss challenges and celebrate your successes. They’ll help you with shopping, meal creation, dining out, nutrition, networking, communicating with others, and more. And they won’t stop at 30 days or six weeks. New Leaf mentors work with mentees for as long as needed, because they’re here to support lifelong change.”