Social mentoring is a social intervention tool characterized by the relationship between a person at risk of exclusion and another person who provides individual support
Carl is an asylum seeker. Last September, he left Dianova’s International Protection Centre in Manresa to settle in an apartment in a village located in the Bages region. When living with other asylum seekers at the centre, he used to be the subject of constant professional attention, and as he was surrounded by people he knew, he had his full share of human relationships. The day he left, everything was turned upside down for him. He was left alone in a place where he did not know anyone. His feeling of loneliness rapidly turned into depression. After a while, Carl was invited to join the social mentoring program. His mood then improved dramatically through the relationship he began to have each week with five mentors, all of whom are residents of the same village. Thanks to this relationship, Carl was soon able to get to know other people, to learn the region’s culture and customs, and more importantly, he was able to gain a sense of belonging.
Among other activities, Carl now practices sport and he gets to know the surroundings through walks with his mentors. They helped him make homemade furniture with pallets and in turn he gave them a helping hand when one of them had to move. He was also invited to spend Christmas with his mentors and he was glad to initiate them to his country’s cuisine. The mentors gave him some help in understanding complex administrative formalities and they are now on the lookout for any job opportunity.
As Carl puts it, “I’ve been quite lucky to be able to enter the social mentoring program. Through the relationship I have with my mentors I’ve been able to escape loneliness and despair. Through the simple fact of speaking to someone, I’ve been able to get my strength and zest for life back. Today I feel that I’m really part of the life of this village.”
Social Justice Day for migrant workers
Social mentoring programme
The programme is part of the Catalan Refugee Programme developed by the Generalitat de Catalunya and run by different organizations that offer the help of professionals who have received training in mentoring activities for the refugees.
The professional follow-up consists of supporting the establishment of a balanced, equal and long-term relationship between the mentors and the person they are dedicated to accompany. The mentor provides technical knowledge, advice, support, care and a perspective for the future. Social mentoring activities aim to implement informal, supportive social networks so that the person can reap the benefits associated with them, including language practice and job search assistance.
The office of Dianova Spain is located in the Catalan city of Vic. The program is currently monitoring 12 families from the Catalan Refugee Program. In all, 41 people are now mentored by 12 groups of volunteers, i.e. 46 people.
The families are composed of applicants for international protection who have agreed to join the Catalan refugee program. Mentor groups are made up of volunteers with 25-hour training on refugee issues and social mentoring. They also learn to establish a trust-based relationship that will be or real use to the person mentored. Mentors participate in regular meetings with all programme stakeholders, including families, referring social workers, and community resources and services. All maintain a permanent contact by phone or email.
Could mentoring be an example of civil society engagement and participation to combat the social injustice that refugees must face? Could it be a tool for promoting social justice?