03.Oct.2007

Gordon Brown backed project needs more volunteers from Newcastle and Sunderland

The Newcastle and Sunderland Time Together project is calling on residents to extend a warm welcome by becoming a mentor to a refugee.

Over fifty people have already supported refugees in the area who have fled war or persecution. But Time Together needs more mentors in the area.

Time Together has been praised by Gordon Brown. The Prime Minister featured the project in his book Britain’s Everyday Heroes where he said:

“What makes this project so powerful is that it tries to give new residents a personal and real understanding of what it is like to live in Britain.

“The mentors are real people with their own individual attitudes and opinions. They are not giving the “official view” but their own honest take on life in the UK, and it is this that makes their help so valuable to those building lives here for themselves.”

Time Together mentors come from all walks of life and spend around five hours a month with their mentee over the period of up to a year. Mentors help their mentees in many ways, from looking at their CV, to practising English, or showing them the local sights and helping them to get to know the area.

Local TV personality Denise Robertson, who is the agony aunt on This Morning, said:

"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.

“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."

Fiona Thompson from Newcastle first starting meeting Negin, a refugee from Azerbyjan in October 2006. Together the pair enjoying going to the park and having a coffee.  Fiona has helped Negin to find a volunteering placement at a Citizen’s Advice Bureau. Negin has introduced Fiona to Iranian foods. Fiona says:

“Not knowing the language was the most difficult thing for Negin. Together we have worked on her English but also enjoyed going to the park and getting a coffee together.

“I have been learning more about Negin’s culture. Being a mentor has definitely been a two way thing. I’m really proud of all she is achieving. “

All Time Together 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.

Time Together, developed by national volunteering charity TimeBank is run in Newcastle and Sunderland in partnership with North of England Refugee Service (NERS).

To find out more and to register to become a volunteer mentor on the Newcastle project, please contact Janet Lloyd on 0191 245 7311.

To find out more and to register to become a volunteer mentor on the Sunderland project, please contact Tim Woodhouse on 0191 510 8685.

Alternatively you can  visit www.timetogether.org.uk

-ENDS-

For further media information please contact Alex Delaney on 020 7785 6390 or at a.delaney@timebank.org.uk

Notes to editors:

• Time Together was set up in 2002 by TimeBank, in response to a Government white paper that recommended the provision of mentoring schemes to help refugees integrate better in the UK. The project matches local people with refugees in one to one mentoring relationships. Mentors spend around five hours a month with their mentee. There are now 24 Time Together projects operating across the UK. Time Together launched in Newcastle in April 2006. Time Together is funded by the Home Office and HM Treasury.  See www.timetogether.org.uk

• Time Together in Newcastle and Sunderland is run in partnership with North of England Refugee Service NERS.

• Gordon Brown speaks about Time Together in his new book BRITAIN'S EVERYDAY HEROES, published by Mainstream. For more information, see www.community-links.org

• TimeBank tackles social issues by finding ways for people to give their time that inspire them and match their lives. We know it’s a lot to ask people to give up their time and so we are committed to finding ways that suit how people live and that addresses the needs of the world we live in. Registered charity no. 1073831. See www.timebank.org.uk

• Add your name to the TimeBank 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