26.Oct.2005

Urgent! Solent Refugee Mentoring Scheme Needs More Volunteers!

A unique refugee mentoring scheme, developed by national volunteering charity TimeBank, urgently needs more volunteer mentors to participate on the programme in Portsmouth and Southampton.

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 project manager Sarah Arnold says: “Unfortunately, we have become used to negativity about refugees. In reality, 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 skills, talent and experience that often goes unrecognised.

“Time Together is an amazing project; both the refugees and their mentors get so much out of it – it is a learning experience for both sides. We are running our first training session in January and would urge people to volunteer as a mentor – you don’t need to have any specific skills and it’ll be a wonderful way to start the New Year!”

The scheme has been so successful it has now secured funding to be introduced in a further 18 cities, including Southampton and Portsmouth, where the scheme will be run in partnership with two local organisations - CLEAR and PARS.

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 and receive support and expenses for the duration of their mentoring relationship.

Kathy, 32, from Plymouth, started mentoring in April 2005. She thought getting involved in the scheme would be really rewarding and enable her to learn more about different cultures. Her mentee, Magid, is originally from Kurdistan, Iraq. Whilst it is still early days in their relationship, Kathy is really enjoying the time she spends with Magid:

“I’ve learnt a lot about his culture by listening to him talk about his friends and family. We have identified his needs, the main one is to improve his English, so we have lengthy conversations to try and achieve this.” 

Magid has been in the UK for three years and works in a factory in Plymouth. For Magid, the Time Together mentoring scheme was a chance to meet up with British people, practise his English and learn more about  British culture:

“I found it difficult speaking English, and didn’t understand the system or the British culture. I found when I first arrived everything was different but, with the help of friends and Time Together, I have found it easier to integrate.”

Mentoring has shown Kathy that refugees and asylum seekers are normal human beings like herself.  Before she became involved in the mentoring scheme she was very fearful of refugees and asylum seekers, largely because of the way they are portrayed in the media.  Her main objective was to overcome that fear. Kathy hopes that after the mentoring scheme finishes the two of them will remain friends and keep in touch. Magid is very happy and enjoys living in the UK, he says:

“It was very nice to feel safe, the UK is a wonderful country.  My big dream is to get a job helping other refugees.”

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.

For more information on mentoring a refugee log onto www.timetogether.org.uk
or call Portsmouth 02392 818725 or Southampton 02380 221111.

-ENDS-

For further press information, please contact: Louise Clifton at TimeBank on 0207 785 6388 / 07977 219629 or email: l.clifton@timebank.org.uk.

Notes for editors:

(1) 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.  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) Time Together was launched in 2002 and currently operates in six cities – London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester, Peterborough and Plymouth. Volunteers give five hours a month to mentor a refugee. The scheme aims to help refugees integrate in their new community, create ambassadors for refugees in UK communities and promote more positive images of refugees in the media. For more information log onto www.timebank.org.uk/mentor or call 0845 601 4008

(3) TimeBank is a national campaign inspiring and connecting people to share and give time www.timebank.org.uk

(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