London

Case studies

Mary has been matched with Teresa, a refugee from Sudan, for one year.

Mary: "If you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem" is a phrase that guides me often when I feel passionate about the injustices in our society and yet know that alone I am pretty powerless. I was keen to do something even if it were small to make a difference.

A friend told me about TimeBank and Refugee mentoring. What attracted me was that you were offered training, support/supervision and that it had a framework and boundaries.

From the first meeting with Teresa, a 60 year old refugee from Sudan, I felt that we clicked. I just felt very comfortable and felt that this was mutual. The most helpful thing was that she is very proactive and clear about what she wants to get out of our relationship.

It was a privilege to be with someone who was facing so much change and difficulty and yet who met every challenge with courage and optimism. There were naturally times when she was very down and risked losing motivation. Maybe I was able to be o­ne of several people who could walk with her, encourage, put her in touch with people who could help, alert her to some of the pitfalls in the maze of bureaucracy around benefits etc. I learnt so much both about how cruel our systems are and how they destroy peoples' spirit. I learnt most of all from Teresa herself, about courage, perseverance and ingenuity.

Being a mentor has brought many rewards and I would encourage anyone who is concerned about justice in our society and who enjoys people and diversity, to offer their skills in such a worthwhile project.

Teresa: When I first came to Britain as an asylum seeker, I didnít have the slightest idea that I would be of any use to the community or to any o­ne at all.

In the year 2002, I was invited to the WUS UK. AGM celebrations and out of the crowd a lady came towards me and greeted me, I didnít recognise her, She told me she was Sarah Arnold of the TimeBank, I was thrilled that in England I was able to find someone who could recognise me and call me by name. after my short conversation with Sarah, I joined the mentoring project ĎTime Togetherí.

I met my mentor Mary o­n the 29th May 2003. We sat down and discussed my background and goals. We designed o­ne uniform application letter for a paid job or volunteer. Mary encouraged me to apply to join Cafod in their volunteer Child Protection Programmes in schools. I have now started with Cafod; I am building and gaining more confidence in working and interacting with British people, which at the beginning I thought impossible. All this took place just within a short period of time, which is great.

My mentor didnít stop at helping me find my volunteer work. She went further, she encouraged me when I thought my age would count against me and she assisted me in my personal settlements and integration in the community as a normal citizen. I am now able to fit in very easily and fast. Mary has helped me with everything from filling in forms to helping me furnish my house. I look at Mary not o­nly as a mentor but also just like my elder sister.

In general I have achieved a lot from the mentor programme with TimeBank, I have dropped the assumptions that the British are negative people. I am able to interact with my neighbours positively. I feel like a normal human being in the community.

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