Time Together – mentoring refugees, London
About the project:
Time Together was set up by TimeBank in 2002, in response to a government white paper that recommended the provision of mentoring schemes to help refugees integrate better in the UK. The scheme aimed to complement the well-established services already provided by refugee organisations and community groups.
Since November 2002 Time Together has recruited and matched over 2,500 refugees with volunteer mentors. Time Together has also achieved great success in promoting positive images of refugees in the media.
Mentors spend fivehours per month with their mentee for a period of 6 months to a year, meeting at least twice a month. Mentors help their mentee to feel more at home in the UK by sharing their knowledge and experience, and offering their friendship. This might mean doing anything from helping to write a CV, to visiting a museum or art gallery, to helping to practise English. Time Together provides full training and support to mentors and mentees throughout the course of the mentoring relationships.
Time Together is funded by the Refugee Council in London and the Scottish Refugee Council in Scotland as part of the UK Border Agency’s Refugee Integration and Employment Service.
- To provide mentoring to complement the well-established services already provided by refugee organisations and community groups
- To help refugees integrate better into the UK
Impact on mentees:
- 660 refugees in London have been matched with a mentor since March 2005
- 78% of mentees felt more integrated into UK society
- 99% said they had made progress in increasing their understanding of ways of life in the UK
- 93% said they had a better understanding of UK culture
- There had been a 42% rise in employment since mentees had had a Time Together mentor. At the beginning of the mentoring relationship, 5% of mentees were employed. At the end of the mentoring relationship this had risen to 47%.
- 98% had improved their English language
Impact on mentors:
- 100% of the mentors found the experience of mentoring beneficial in terms of their own skills development
- 100% of the mentors said they had gained awareness of other cultures
Personal impact statements
Mentee’s view – Faduma:
Faduma left Somalia in her late 20’s as a refugee of the civil war and came to the UK alone. After one year she gained her status so she could stay in the UK and apply for work but after hundreds of job applications, she was constantly declined because of a lack of experience and because she “wasn’t right for the job”. She then decided to sign up for a mentor from the Time Together project. After some initial meetings with her mentor Michael, she decided that her first step would be to educate herself and was accepted on to a Development Studies course at Birkbeck College, University of London, which she successfully completed. From there, she has had a few different jobs and has been able to progress up to the position of director of a local Somalian community organisation in West Kensington called the Minaret Centre.
“If it wasn’t for Michael and his dedicated support for me through the Time Together project, I would not be where I am today. Not only did Michael educate me about the British way of life and help me develop the skills and confidence to succeed in a job here but he gave me a whole new life – thanks to him, I have a wonderful set of British friends, he’s godfather to my little boy, a shoulder to lean on and he’s become a lifelong friend.”
Mentor’s view – Michael:
Michael is the general secretary of the Cooperative Party and he supported and worked with Faduma to help her achieve her personal goals – to find a job. He supported her by helping her to apply for education courses, helping her with assignments, how to write a CV and teaching her how to deal with government bureaucracy.
“Through meeting and working with Faduma I learnt not only about the plight of refugees in Somalia but also about the difficulties they face here in London. It’s extremely difficult for refugees to access the services that we as native Britons take for granted. Things like work and education are almost impossible for them to find. As a British citizen I knew I could help.”