28.Feb.2006

Refugee mentoring scheme celebrates first year in Peterborough

REFUGEE MENTORING SCHEME CELEBRATES FIRST YEAR IN PETERBOROUGH

55 Peterborough residents have made a huge difference to the lives of refugees in the region as the first year of a unique mentoring scheme draws to a close.

Time Together is a national scheme developed by volunteering charity TimeBank, which matches British people with refugees who have been granted leave to remain in the UK. It aims to help refugees integrate into British society whilst giving British people the opportunity to learn about their cultures and experiences.

Zabeen Akbar, the co-ordinator of Time Together in Peterborough, has been working hard to promote the project to the local community. As a refugee herself she understands how difficult it is for refugees arriving in a new country:

“Helping other new arrivals settle into the new community gives me personal satisfaction. Also being able to meet mentors who are willing to give their time and effort in reward for no monetary gain has helped me see things from a very different angle,” she says.

Mentors are of various ages and backgrounds, and come from all over the area including Peterborough, Cambridge, Stamford and St Neots but more are always needed.

“This innovative project has been a huge success in its first year in the city,” says Zabeen. “When refugees are granted leave to remain they face many challenges; from finding a job and accessing education to improving language skills, making friends and gaining confidence in their new community.

“Mentors taking part in the scheme come from all walks of life, from students to retired professionals and full-time workers, and every one of them has brought their own special talents and experience to make a difference to someone’s life. Anyone who is interested can contact me to find out more about the great benefits Time Together offers.”

Time Together mentors spend around five hours a month with their mentees helping them with anything from writing a CV and explaining the job market to learning about computers and the internet to enjoying a museum or gallery. Both attend a one-day course, are actively involved in selecting a match and receive support and expenses for the duration of the relationship. More than 500 refugees have benefited from one-on-one relationships since Time Together was initially launched nearly three years ago in London, Birmingham and Glasgow.

Hayley is nearing the end of her one year mentoring relationship with Tekulu. She explains, "Peterborough is a multicultural city so I thought it would be good to help the community become more integrated."

After completing mentor training last March, Hayley was matched with her mentee, Tekulu, who is 30 years old and comes from Eritrea. He had only been living in the UK for six months when they met and wanted to improve his English. Hayley has been helping him with this goal. 

During the time they have spent together, Hayley and Tekulu have explored the local community, gone for walks in parks and visited museums. Hayley has also encouraged Tekulu to correspond via email so that she can assist him with his written English.

So far both have gained much from their mentoring relationship. For Hayley, mentoring has given her an insight into the life of a refugee and she has found it rewarding to let Tekulu know that "this country can be a safe and secure place to live in”. Tekulu’s confidence has increased vastly and he is now focused o­n finding a college placement and a suitable job.

Hayley and Tekulu will be presented with a certificate at a Time Together ceremony on 6th May at the New Link Centre in Peterborough.

To register as a mentor or to find more information on Time Together, please call Zabeen Akbar: Tel: 01733 742 813 E-Mail: z.akbar@timebank.org.uk or visit www.timetogether.org.uk

-ENDS-         

For press information or to request an interview with a mentor or mentee please call Lou Clifton, TimeBank Press Officer: 0207 785 6388 / 07977 219629 l.clifton@timebank.org.uk

Notes to editors: 

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

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

Time Together Peterborough is based at the New Link Centre and is funded by the Big Lottery Fund. The Peterborough project is unique in that it works with both asylum seekers and refugees. This enables support to be given to people as soon as they enter the country, not just when they are granted refugee status.

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