TimeBank establishes refugee mentor project

TimeBank, the national volunteering organisation, plans to launch a pilot refugee mentoring scheme in cities across the UK.

Time To Belong is thought to be the UK's largest refugee mentoring project to date, and aims to build relationships between volunteers and 150 refugees in Newcastle, Birmingham and Glasgow over the next year.

The scheme will be run in conjunction with The Prince's Trust and the Employability Forum, a network of voluntary organisations working to identify barriers which refugees face when seeking employment.

"We're trying to launch a project that engages the public by helping refugees build a life for themselves in the UK,

said Matthew Thomson, director for development at TimeBank. "Properly trained mentors will help individuals and families to understand this country's cultural and value system, and will also go some way to break down the terrible misconceptions that many people have about refugees living in our cities."

Funded by a £100,000 grant from the European Mentoring and Coaching Council, the project will take volunteers through an accredited training programme to equip them to help refugees overcome cultural barriers and provide assistance with language and employment skills.

The scheme has already generated interest from urban refugee agencies, and the Employability Forum will work to promote it to refugee communities in each participating city.

TimeBank will work closely with The Prince's Trust to establish a clear code of practice in the first year of the project.

Thomson said that this initial year will also be a time to conduct extensive research and collate detailed feedback from the first 150 mentor relationships.

"The scheme will help refugees make effective use of their personal skills and experience and play an important role in developing their long-term future,

said Patrick Wintour, director of the Employability Forum.

"If we can make this project more widely available then it has the potential to make a real difference to refugee communities across the country."

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