22.Aug.2005

Local Organisation To Run New Refugee Mentoring Scheme In Brighton & Hove

A unique refugee mentoring scheme, developed by national volunteering charity TimeBank, will be introduced in Brighton and Hove this autumn following a successful tender from the Refugee Advice Project (RAP).

The Time Together scheme aims to help refugees settle into British society and to create ambassadors for refugees in UK communities. By encouraging and aiding integration, the scheme challenges misconceptions about refugees in local communities and seeks to promote positive images of refugees in the media.

Time Together was launched nearly three years ago in London, Birmingham and Glasgow, and in Peterborough, Plymouth and Manchester in 2004. So far, more than 500 refugees have benefited from one-on-one mentoring relationships with volunteer mentors. The scheme has been so successful it has now secured funding to be introduced in a further 18 cities, including Brighton and Hove, where the scheme will be run in partnership with RAP.

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with TimeBank to bring this initiative to Brighton and Hove , where it will provide a valuable support system to local people. This is a worthwhile project, which promotes volunteering to Brighton and Hove’s residents whilst helping refugees to integrate. Mentoring is a two way process which brings many benefits to all concerned,” said RAP spokesperson, Stephen Silverwood.

Sarah Arnold, Time Together project manager, said: “Sadly, we have become used to hearing refugees described as ‘scroungers’ and ‘benefit fraudsters’. In reality, this is simply not the case - refugees are people who are forced to flee their homes due to a real threat of persecution. When they arrive in Britain the majority bring with them a wealth of skills, talent and experience that is unfortunately often wasted.

“85% of refugees hold qualifications and the refugees on the scheme are exceptionally motivated and determined to put something back into the communities that have welcomed them. The majority are professionals – doctors, lawyers, accountants and nurses - who just need a little bit of support and encouragement to realise their ambitions.”

Time Together mentors – who come from all walks of life – spend around five hours a month with their mentees helping them with anything from writing a CV to practising their English, explaining how the internet or job market works or even enjoying a museum, gallery or football match.

Mentors encourage and motivate their mentee to achieve their goals in education, language and employment. They 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.

Jo MacIntosh, a mentor from Glasgow, says she has gained far more than she expected from volunteering with Time Together:

“Firstly I feel that I have gained a new friend. I have also increased my knowledge of a country and culture I knew little about beforehand. I have a greater understanding of the issues facing refugees when they come to this country and an appreciation of the problems that arise for people seeking to flee from their country and some of the reasons behind this flight.

”On a personal level, volunteering in the Time Together project has enhanced my job prospects and has reaffirmed what is important to me and which issues are worth standing up for.”

Aline, a refugee living in Birmingham, describes why she got involved with Time Together:

”When I first arrived in the UK alone two years ago from Burundi, I was very nervous about everything. Having never been to Europe before, everything was new and I was confused and scared. O­ne of the main things I found difficult when I arrived in the UK was the language as I o­nly had very basic English. Also, I had no friends with me and have o­nly one relative here. But I was feeling a bit safe because of the existence of human rights in this country.

"I joined Time Together because the scheme offered me a chance to improve my English and integrate, and this was very useful for me. Before I met my mentor it was very difficult to know where to go in terms of seeking advice, education and support.

"I have found being mentored very helpful because it has made me much more confident, helped me understand the UK culture and most of all given me a great friendship.”

To register as a mentor or to find more information on Time Together, refugees and asylum seekers please visit www.timebank.org.uk/mentor or http://stories.timebank.org.uk/TimeTogether_home.php

Media contact: Louise Clifton 020 7785 6388 / 07977 219629 or email: l.clifton@timebank.org.uk

-ENDS-

Notes to Editors

1. TimeBank’s Time Together initiative is funded by the Home Office and Treasury’s Invest to Save budget. The Invest to Save Budget (ISB) is a joint Treasury/Cabinet Office initiative with an aim to create sustainable improvements in the capacity to deliver public services in a more joined up manner. A key principle of the ISB programme is that investment is provided in return for reform. http://www.isb.gov.uk/hmt.isb.application.2/index.asp

2. TimeBank is a national charity inspiring and connecting people to share and give time. www.timebank.org.uk or 0845 601 4008

3. RAP assists refugees integrate fully into the community of Brighton and Hove, allowing them to contribute to the cultural and economic life of the city by developing their potential to the full.