Stories that need to be heardMelanie Berard
When I walk away from facilitating a first mentoring meeting, leaving behind a new volunteer mentor and mentee, I don’t know what will come of it. I push the café door, walk onto the busy street, put my earphones in and breathe in the potential of what is to come between these two strangers I have matched.
Six months later, I sit down with these same people, who are no longer strangers, and ask them to reflect upon their mentoring experience. The energy is completely different. I sit back, enjoy the familiarity of the conversation and listen to the story they have to tell me. Their story.
Every time that happens, I get a better understanding of the value of my work at TimeBank and of our RISE project, which supports refugees in North and East London. Volunteers on the project mentor these refugees through the challenges of looking for a job and working in a new place with perhaps different professional and cultural norms and to overcome any insecurity, isolation and anxiety they may feel about settling and working in a new country.
After just a few months co-ordinating the RISE mentoring project, I started feeling so overwhelmed by the positive feedback I kept receiving from both volunteers and refugees that I thought these stories needed to be heard, and not just by me.
I asked some of our volunteers and mentees whether they would agree for their voices to be heard through a recorded interview so that more people could hear about their amazing experience. A lot of them agreed.
A few months down the line, what started out as an idea has now become a project of its own thanks to the amazing work and energy of the TimeBank team, notably my colleague Mark Wardman.
TimeBank Voices, thanks to funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and in partnership with the London Metropolitan Archives, will enable us to share and preserve the amazing experiences of our beneficiaries and volunteers across the UK.
I can’t believe this is really happening. I hope you enjoy hearing their stories as much as I do.