What’s Involved?

When they enter the UK refugees face many barriers to successful integration. These include difficulties with language, a lack of knowledge about UK systems, such as where to find employment opportunities, financial hardship and often open hostility and discrimination from the host community.

Mentoring is one of the most effective ways of overcoming these difficulties. Mentors support, encourage, motivate and guide their mentee as they seek to achieve their goals in education, employment and integration.

Mentors spend about 5 hours a month with their mentee over a period of a year. Mentors help their mentee to feel more at home in the UK by sharing their knowledge and experience, and offering their friendship. This might mean doing anything from helping to write a CV, to visiting a museum or art gallery, to helping to practise English or explaining the peculiarities of British humour. Time Together provides full training and support to mentors and mentees throughout the course of the mentoring relationships.

Since the project was launched in 2002, hundreds of refugees have been matched with a volunteer mentor. An average of 50 refugees are matched with a mentor each year in each location.

Mentoring is one of the most rewarding ways of giving time. It offers a wonderful opportunity to use your own knowledge and experience to help another person while giving you the chance to develop your own skills.

‘Mentoring for Time Together sounded socially rewarding but I had no idea it would be fun, personally challenging and educational as well. Easily the best volunteer activity I have ever had the privilege to be involved in.’ - A mentor on Time Together

What is Mentoring?

Mentoring has been described as a ‘professional friendship’. The Home Office gives this definition:

'Mentoring is a one-to-one, non-judgemental relationship in which an individual mentor voluntarily gives time to support and encourage another. This relationship is typically developed at a time of transition in the mentee’s life, and lasts for a significant and sustained period.'

A mentor is someone who guides, encourages, motivates, teaches and inspires. Mentoring is based on mutual trust and respect. It is not a one-sided relationship but one of reciprocity, providing both mentee and mentor with the opportunity to learn new things and further their own personal development through their interactions with each another.

Mentoring on Time Together is a unique experience. Some of the relationships mentors forge with their mentees are very informal, with mentors taking on a befriending role, visiting museums, chatting over coffee and helping their mentee feel less isolated. Other relationships are more formal and structured, with mentors offering professional support and assistance with specific goals, such as finding a job or requalifying in their professional field. Most relationships will be a mixture of these, as mentors and mentees combine a befriending approach while also focussing on specific goals the mentee wants to achieve, usually with regard to language or employment.

The type of relationship that develops depends very much on the personalities of the people involved and the individual aims of the mentee. The training given by Co-ordinators to participants helps them to structure and manage their relationships by giving practical advice and clear guidelines on boundaries.

What will be expected of me as a mentor?

Mentors are not expected to be professional counsellors, advisors or experts on immigration or asylum issues. However, they must be committed and reliable, and have a flexible and open-mind. Mentors must be over 18 years old, speak fluent English and be either British citizens or have lived in the UK long enough to have a real understanding of the culture and customs.

A good mentor should:

  • Be open-minded
  • Show patience, consideration and respect
  • Be an effective listener
  • Have good communication skills
  • Be self-aware
  • Be keen to further their own learning
  • Guide but not instruct

What training will I receive?

At the training course mentors will receive comprehensive training, explaining what will be expected of them and more importantly, what is not expected of them. Mentors are not expected to be experts but to signpost their mentees towards information and people who are experts. TimeBank has all the knowledge required by a mentor to support their mentee and is there to support both mentors and mentees if ever a problem or challenge arises.

What support will I receive?

Mentors receive continual training and support throughout the course of their mentoring relationship. As well as the initial mentor training, pairs will have opportunities every 2 months to get together with other mentors and mentees in order to discuss and share experiences. Mentors will also have the opportunity to become part of an ever-expanding interactive mentoring network, where they can give and gain advice from other mentors across the country.
The Time Together staff, in particular your local Project Co-ordinator, will also be available by phone and email, to assist and guide you throughout your mentoring experience.

Who are the mentees?

The mentees on the scheme come from a variety of backgrounds, countries and cultures. There is also a wide variety of professions and education levels. The standard of English varies, although all mentees must have good enough spoken English to be able to conduct a conversation with their mentor.

All mentees have full refugee status; meaning that they have been granted leave to remain in the UK by the Home Office.The length of time the mentees will have been in the UK will range from 6 months to 10 years. Accordingly, needs will differ in each relationship. Those mentees who have been resident in the UK for a significant length of time may have different objectives to those who have been here for less time.

How do you match me with my mentee?

TimeBank has developed a careful system of matching refugees with a mentor, based on a number of key criteria. We take into account factors such as age, sex, proximity and mutual interests when deciding a match.

TimeBank aims to match mentors with mentees as soon as possible after training, however, sometimes there can be a wait whilst we find a suitable match.

What kind of things do mentors and mentees do together?

This depends on what both parties want to get out of the mentoring relationship and what they enjoy doing. Mentors on the project have done a variety of things with their mentees including; visiting museums and art galleries, playing football together, writing a cv or looking for jobs, going out for dinner or on a picnic.

'My mentor and I have so much fun together. We visit places I have never been to before, like museums and galleries. I have lived in London for a year but had never visited Trafalgar Square or Buckingham Palace.’ Fitsum, refugee from Eritrea

Time Togehter is not prescriptive in telling pairs what to do, however, Co-ordinators can offer plenty of suggestions and advice in helping pairs to set and achieve their goals.

‘It’s reflecting, encouraging and supporting that’s all. The progress is amazing. Mentoring has given my mentee the opportunity to talk things through with a neutral person. When I started I felt under pressure but there isn’t any pressure at all. I get a real glow from the experience.’ - A mentor on Time Together.

‘With the help from my mentor I have been able to perfect my CV, improve my English and his experience and contacts in business have helped me with my own business ambitions.’- A refugee on Time Together

‘Mentoring for TimeBank sounded socially rewarding but I had no idea it would be fun, personally challenging and educational as well. Easily the best volunteer activity I have ever had the privilege to be involved in.’

Al, a mentor.
Flow chart of what’s involved