HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT BECOMING A WELCOME MENTOR?
I have been volunteering with a reading therapy project called ‘Words in Mind’ which is delivered by Third Sector Leaders Kirklees and through this I found out about another programme run by the organisation called Welcome Mentors.
Welcome Mentors help refugees, asylum seekers and migrants to settle in Kirklees and support them in accessing services and integrating into the community.
The role appealed to me as it meant I could use my language skills and help people in the community (my native language is Spanish, but I also speak English and some German).
WHAT DOES A WELCOME MENTOR DO?
I have been translating relevant information to South American families and helping them to become familiar with Huddersfield. For example, I have informed the families on how they can enrol on English classes. I have also been helping with weekly activities at Huddersfield Library called ‘Meet Try and Learn’ where we use craft activities to help people with their English skills and to integrate and make friends. I have supported 4 different families and the roles is varied and flexible depending on the needs of the family.
HOW HAS THE ROLE BEEN ADAPTED?
Currently, I am not able to meet people face to face but I am still able to provide support by telephone. I have been making sure that the families I am helping understand the latest health guidelines and check that their essential needs are being met and they have enough food and medicine, If there are any issues I report these back to Steffi the Co-ordinator. Some families don’t have the internet so aren’t able to access the news – it is important that I update them on the situation and any changes with guidelines etc. If a client has wi-fi then I will explain which online activities they are able to access to improve their English skills.
I have also been translating important information such as government Coronavirus guidelines, safeguarding information sheets and how to access free school meals voucher. Sometimes I create additional videos when it is requested to better illustrate the message given in the translation and they then get posted on different websites.
WHAT DO YOU GET OUT OF VOLUNTEERING?
I really like volunteering; it is a fulfilling way to spend my spare time and make sure people’s needs in the community are being met. The families I help are very grateful for the support.
I think volunteering contributes to my general wellbeing. It has improved my communication skills and made me more aware of needs of my community. The volunteer training was insightful and I have learnt things that I have been able to put into practice as a Volunteer. I have improved my translation skills and extended my knowledge on particular topics. Volunteering has helped me with recommendations for a job and I am now working in the third sector.
Steffi Rogers who co-ordinates the Welcome Mentor scheme added:
“Itziar has been in daily contact with a family from El Salvador who have had a very difficult time, they are expecting a baby and so understandably have been cautious about leaving the house, their English is limited and so they have struggled to understand what is safe to do and current guidelines. Itziar has been available whenever needed to answer their questions and support them with getting food, their free school meal vouchers and to ease any concerns that they have. She is a real asset to our team and I for one could not manage without her and her kindness, patience and dedication to supporting the community.”
The Welcome Mentor scheme have 70 active volunteers speaking 45 different languages. 20 of these volunteers were recruited during the Coronavirus pandemic as Telephone Befrienders.
Find out more about the work of the Migration Team at TSL Kirklees here
Interested in becoming a Welcome Mentor? More information here.