PETA’s Vegan Mentor Program Offers One-On-One Support, Saving One Life At A Time

vegan mentors

Tracey Godden (left) and Claudia Godden (right) from Orillia, Ontario, Canada, pose with Keith Burgeson, coordinator of the PETA Vegan Mentor Program.

James Boling was nearly sick to death of his diet.

Just months ago, Boling weighed 400 pounds. He was pre-diabetic, his cholesterol levels were dramatically elevated and his resting heart rate was startlingly high. He used a cane to get around because of the swelling in his legs and suffered from terrible joint pain.

He began to fear that he would not be around to see his 4-year-old daughter grow up.

“My health was going downhill,” Boling, 48, said. “I needed something quick.’’

A former vegetarian, Boling remembered useful vegan information on the PETA website, where he found the Vegan Mentor Program.

The Vegan Mentor Program, started in 2015, is designed to make the transition to a vegan lifestyle even easier by offering one-on-one support from knowledgeable vegans. The program has assisted more than 1,300 people from 60 countries around the world.

Mentees are paired with mentors who address questions and concerns about going vegan in addition to giving guidance on shopping, cooking, dining, and anything else related to living compassionately. The program strives to foster a healthy, sustainable lifestyle shift by offering a network of support and resources that promote kindness instead of cruelty.

“Having a personal connection with someone who has been through what you’re going through is the primary benefit,’’ said Keith Burgeson, who heads the program. “To have someone to lean on when they need extra motivation, or help talking to friends and family, that’s really helpful.’’

Boling, who has since lost about 90 pounds, has stopped taking diabetes medication entirely. His cholesterol levels have normalized, as has his blood pressure. His resting heart rate has dramatically improved and he no longer needs a cane. But the best part, Boling says, is that his plant-based diet choices have improved not just his health but also has nourished his soul.

“The amount of peacefulness I have because I know that I am not contributing to animal suffering, not contributing to ill effects on the environment,” Boling said. “There has been a greater return of happiness — a whole body, mind, spirit improvement overall.”

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