01.Mar.2007

TV's Denise Robertson backs mentoring scheme for refugees in Sunderland

Local TV personality Denise Robertson is encouraging people in Sunderland to volunteer for a unique mentoring scheme supporting the city’s refugees.

Time Together, developed by national volunteering charity TimeBank and run in partnership with North of England Refugee Service, is looking for people who could support refugees in Sunderland as they settle into their new communities.

Denise Robertson, agony aunt on This Morning, said:

"Sunderland is a friendly place, but when refugees arrive they find themselves a long way from their families and the home and life they're used to. They're faced with language barriers, and often their skills and qualifications aren't recognised here, making it an extremely isolating experience. It's difficult for them to know where to turn to for help.

“Most of them want to become more involved in their new communities, and learn more about the area where they live. Spending time with a mentor as part of Time Together gives them the confidence and skills to deal with day-to-day life.

Mentoring is also a hugely rewarding experience. It's a great way for local people to make friends and to learn about other cultures."

Volunteer mentors, who come from all walks of life, spend around five hours a month for about a year helping their mentees with anything from writing a CV to explaining how the Internet or job market works, practicing their English or even going to a football match.

Anne Boyle is a Market Research Manager at the University of Sunderland. She signed up to Time Together recently, and having completed the training will soon be matched with her mentee.

She says:

"I can only imagine how terrifying it must be for someone who has to find their way in a strange country without any support, perhaps suffering in ways most of us cannot imagine. Quite simply I’d like to be a friend to someone in this situation, helping wherever I can, perhaps with English skills and practical things such as where to shop or even helping them look for a job.”

“We need to show people who have had to leave everything they know that they’re not on their own. I’m lucky to have a big family, and want to help someone else feel like they belong, at least as long as they live in the area.”

Time Together Coordinator in Sunderland, Amilee Collins says:

“I’m delighted that Time Together is now operating in Sunderland. It’s a valuable project that helps refugees to integrate whilst promoting volunteering to local people. Mentoring is a two way process that brings so many benefits to all concerned.

There are a lot of negative stories about refugees focusing on statistics, but behind those figures are real people. The majority are exceptionally motivated and determined to put something back into the communities that have welcomed them.”

All mentors attend a one-day training course, are actively involved in selecting a suitable match and receive support and expenses for the duration of their mentoring relationship.

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 systems.

To find out more and to register to become a volunteer mentor on the Sunderland project, please contact Amilee Collins on 0191 510 8685 or visit www.timetogether.org.uk 

-ENDS-

Notes to editors:

(1) Time Together was launched in 2002 and currently operates in the following cities: Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Dudley, Glasgow, Ipswich & Norwich, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oldham, Peterborough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Sheffield, Southampton and Sunderland. For more information log onto www.timetogether.org.uk or call 0845 601 4008.

(2) North of England Refugee Service works to support and improve the lives of refugees and asylum seekers in the North of England. Visit www.refugee.org.uk/welcome

(3) TimeBank is a national campaign inspiring and connecting people to share and give time www.timebank.org.uk  Registered charity No. 1073831

(4) Add your name to our media mailing list and you'll receive regular press releases from TimeBank keeping you updated on new campaigns and activity. Visit our online Media Centre for more information. www.timebank.org.uk/mediacentre