Call for 'volunteer friends' in Glasgow

3 October 2008

Volunteers are wanted to act as mentors to refugees who need help with finding their feet in Glasgow. The mentors are being recruited by Time Together, a programme which helps forge friendships between refugees and local people.

Time Together is delivered in Glasgow in partnership with the Scottish Refugee Council and Glasgow Volunteer Centre. It forms one strand of the new Refugee Integration and Employment Service that offers support to all newly arrived refugees to the UK. The mentor helps the refugee settle into the community once their more immediate needs have been catered for.

Mentors commit to giving five hours a month over a period of between six months to a year. They provide their mentee with support, whether it’s an introduction to local services or the transport system, assisting with English language, interpreting slang or jargon, going for a walk or just having a chat over a coffee.

Catriona Jinks is a 25-year-old social work student from Glasgow’s West End who has been impressed by the flexibility of the scheme. She was paired with Kauther, a Ugandan woman refugee, who arrived just a few months ago, with a baby and a modest amount of English and little else.

“We meet up and go shopping. When Kauther needs something for her baby, I show her where to go. We have a wander and a chat and it’s really casual and nice. We have struck up much more of a friendship than I thought.”

Volunteer mentors like Catriona find the experience of mentoring a refugee richly rewarding. To become a mentor, you must be over 18 years old, speak fluent English and be either a British citizen or have lived in the UK long enough to have a real understanding of the culture and systems. You also need to be open-minded, patient and committed. A full day’s training in mentoring is provided, along with ongoing support from the local Time Together coordinator.

Time Together has run for six years throughout the UK and due to its success, mentoring is now an integral part of the UK Border Agency’s Refugee Integration and Employment Service which launches this month. Its focus will be on those who have newly been given refugee status.

The call to action from Time Together for more volunteer mentors is being broadcast as widely as possible in order to attract volunteers from across the Greater Glasgow area.

-ENDS-

Notes to editors:

  • Time Together has been praised by Gordon Brown in his book Britain’s Everyday Heroes in which he wrote:

‘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.’

  • A refugee is someone who has been given leave to stay in the UK due to a well founded fear of persecution in their own country. As a member of the United Nations, the UK has a responsibility to the rest of the world to help refugees. In 1951 the UK was a signatory to the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
  • More than 2500 refugees to the UK have been matched with mentors since the Time Together project began in November 2002.
  • 80 per cent of mentees report feeling more integrated in UK society as a result of taking part in Time Together.
  • Time Together has been given Beacon status from the Home Office and Approved Provider Standards by the Mentoring and Befriending Foundation
  • It was named one of the best ideas of the 21st century by the Independent on Sunday newspaper.
  • Time Together was set up in 2002 by the national volunteer charity TimeBank in response to a Government white paper that recommended the provision of mentoring schemes to help refugees integrate better in the UK. Time Together is funded by the Home Office and HM Treasury.  See www.timetogether.org.uk and www.timebank.org.uk

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