https://pds.blog.parliament.uk/2018/02/05/mentoring-young-refugee-for-10-percent-time/

Mentoring a young refugee for my 10% time

Image of PDS stickers with 'care' on them which is one of our cultural values

When I heard about the 10% scheme at PDS, I thought it would be a good opportunity to finally get involved in something I’d been thinking about for a long time.

Everyone's heard about the war in Syria that’s been going on for a long time, and Europe's been faced with a major refugee crisis. Yet I had the impression that no one was doing much about it. I felt powerless and wanted to help.

I read about an organisation called Refugee Support Network (RSN) where volunteers mentor young refugees, asylum seekers or victims of trafficking and help them with their education.

This usually consists of helping them with their English as it's the main barrier they face when arriving in the UK.

Practising my skills

I qualified as an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher last year and spent a month teaching English in Italian and Austrian schools. Mentoring a young refugee seemed like the perfect opportunity to keep practising these skills while trying to help in some small way.

I work in the content team and part of my job at PDS is to find solutions to problems and communicate them clearly to all users, taking their technical abilities into account.

So my 10% time activity complements this well. Teaching a foreign language requires skills that are often transferable to other areas, such as:

  • communicating in plain English
  • altering your language for the person you're talking to
  • being confronted with a problem and having to think on your feet to find a solution
  • being patient when explaining something

We're both learning

So far this experience has been very worthwhile. My mentee is very bright and curious, and has made a lot of progress after only a few sessions.

I'm always amazed at how much he manages to communicate despite his relative lack of English. I've learned a lot, not just about his country, but also about what it means to seek asylum in the UK.

We meet once a week at the college’s library where he has his English lessons. It's important that I'm able to meet him in the afternoon so he doesn’t have to wait for me. I wouldn't have been able to do this in any of my previous jobs as I didn't have the flexibility.

I feel very lucky that PDS has given me the opportunity to get involved in this project. If you'd like to help or find out more, please have a look at RSN’s website.

Find out more about the 10% scheme at PDS.

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