According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), by the end of 2017 there were 121,837 refugees, 40,365 pending asylum cases and 97 stateless persons in the UK. That’s around one quarter of a percent (0.25%) of the UK’s total population.
Our RISE project supports refugees living in North and East London – most of them from African or Middle Eastern countries. They meet regularly with a volunteer mentor, developing a strong supportive relationship that focusses on seeking employment, writing CVs, going to job interviews and working in the UK.
Our beneficiaries tell us that the project provides them with invaluable new skills and confidence. One said: “The support and guidance from my mentor got me through many challenging situations at work. Most of all the mentoring helped me by giving me the opportunity to share and confide in someone impartial, outside work. I now better understand what I should be doing and how to find my way around it.
“Meeting with my mentor and accessing her support and guidance has been very useful to me. She has been very easy going and flexible and has shown great mentoring skills. She has always given me tremendous advice when I faced issues at work. She has given me the confidence and ability to deal with challenging situations.”
Mentoring is often about helping someone identify their strengths. “My confidence improved every time I met up with her. Some jobs I would not have applied for without her,” says Yodit.
Most of our beneficiaries talk about how much mentoring has helped them with their English. “In the house I live in no one speaks English. It was good to be able to talk with someone about different things. My English is much better than before,” says Ismail.
Some struggle to travel around London on their own. Mentoring can help them gain confidence and feel less isolated within the city. “Before I met Jay I never travelled on the tube. Now I travel on the tube by myself,” says Ismail.
Many participants talk about the benefits that mentoring has had on their mental health. “It was a good opportunity to get out of the flat. She was someone I could socialise with, be myself,” says Carlos.
A lot of our mentees warmly recommend the programme. “I really appreciate the support. It means a lot. Anyone in my position would benefit from this. It is much more than a cup of coffee. It was a cup of love and care!” says Daphine.