Welcome Mentors Team Wins Kirklees Adult Learners Awards 2021
Congratulations to our Welcome Mentors who have just been awarded the Most Significant Contribution to the Community by Kirklees Community Learning Trust & Kirklees Adult Learning.
The Awards celebrate the achievements of exceptional individuals, projects and groups who have shown outstanding passion, commitment and drive to improve themselves, their community or workplace through learning, often in the face of difficult circumstances.
The Welcome Mentor programme
The Welcome Mentor programme supports refugees, Asylum Seekers and Migrants who are new to Kirklees and often lack the language and support networks to help them access services and integrate in the community. The volunteers offer a range of services to help reduce some of the barriers and alleviate the feeling of isolation and champion integration. It can truly be described as a ‘People helping People’ programme with volunteers being from a range of migration status from a Bi-lingual British Citizen to a recent Asylum Seeker who has good English skills. Each volunteer has valuable experiences to share with their mentee, but the wider volunteer group offering a project-based network of support.
The project became ever more important within COVID, as people were left isolated at home, with financial unmet need, digitally isolated, unable to understand key messages and fearful or unable to access services. The project quickly responded and rather than stopping the project, found it actually grew as the Telephone Welcome Mentor programme was born with many existing Welcome Mentors becoming Telephone Welcome Mentors and an increase in new people wishing to volunteer and make a difference in their community. Following a quick review of all training materials, the new WMs would be trained virtually, the handbook was quickly revised, training made virtual, and 1-1 support provided to ensure TWM felt confident providing the services over the phone ensuring there was sufficient capacity within the project to meet the need.
The Welcome Mentors also helped fight the against Covid by supporting at Covid Vaccine Hubs. The volunteers greeted patients on arrival, found out their first language and matched them up to a volunteer who spoke that language. From there they were able to give them facts about the jab and reassure them, they also went in with the patients whilst they had their jabs to make sure that they were ok.
Who the programme supports
The programme has welcomed over 90 volunteers who speak over 50 different languages. Over the last year, Welcome Mentor Volunteers have been matched to 372 families and individuals providing a range of services from a friendly voice to support accessing ESOL classes, to information about health care, attending school appointments with families to ensure the children are able to progress in a school setting, to supporting the creation of activity packs shared with all Asylum properties, to helping to access baby and food bank services. During the pandemic they have translated important key messages about covid restrictions, testing and vaccinations, as well as signposting to support services all of which would have been impossible without the volunteers.
A special mention to Steffi Rogers, Welcome Mentors Coordinator
The Welcome Mentor project is amazing in the support it provides to the most vulnerable, however the support and co-ordination provided by Steffi just makes the project even more special.
As well as welcoming and supporting volunteers, Steffi helps the volunteers to develop their skills by signposting to a range of learning and training opportunities such as the WEA Interpreter Course, College programmes and generally promotes lifelong learning. She builds their confidence and belief in themselves by acknowledging every good deed completed and every positive difference they have made. She encourages them to get involved, meet people (Subject to Covid) and try new things.
If you ask why, she does all this, she is just so grateful for all they do, that she wants to show her appreciation and also make a positive difference to their lives.
The impact Steffi has had on the group cannot be measured, but when we consider many are new refugees, some have never worked before yet 19 have gained employment through her support with identifying opportunities, assisting with applications, completion of interview prep, reference provision and generally ensuring each of them recognised how special they were and how much they had helped the project achieve its aims to support integrated communities in Kirklees.
Steffi and the Welcome Mentors will receive their Award at Huddersfield Town Hall in January.
Find out more about the Welcome Mentor programme
You can find out more about the Welcome Mentor programme below.