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Mentoring for integration of children affected by migration: Sharing of good practices

2021-02-26

On 18 February 2021, Terre des hommes (Tdh) together with its partners, Organization for Aid to Refugees (Czech Republic), Ocalenie Foundation (Poland), and Slovene Philantropy organised the final conference of the “MINT – Mentoring for Integration of third country national children affected by migration” project to present the mentoring methodology developed in the project and discuss the opportunities to use it in other EU country contexts. 

At the beginning of the online event, Pierre Cazenave, Regional Programme Manager at Tdh, explained how the MINT project is connected to Tdh’s work in the field of migration: “Within the Children and Youth in Migration Programme, we are striving to achieve three main goals by 2030, according to our Theory of Change. One of them is to empower children and youth affected by migration so that they can effectively claim their rights. And the MINT project is directly contributing to this goal.”

The two-year project aimed to support and facilitate the integration process of migrant children, enhance their social relations and empower them as well as the local youth in the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania and Slovenia. This was achieved through an innovative peer-to-peer mentoring programme, language courses and cultural introduction, awareness raising and advocacy actions led by children, which included videos reflecting the children’s own migration experience.

The mentoring programme was based on a Mentoring Methodological Framework developed at the beginning of the project by Child to Child UK, at the initiative of Tdh. The methodology involves identifying and training local young volunteers and pairing them with newly arrived migrant and refugee children. Then, children and youth take part in individual and group meetings focused on social, educational and language support as well as on recreational activities. Within MINT, two mentoring cycles were implemented throughout 2019-2020, with the participation of 111 local youth and 137 children.

The methodological framework was revised at the end of the project based on lessons learnt and feedback received from local youth mentors, migrant children and parents who have participated in MINT. The revised Framework is a practical tool and a useful resource for any organisation setting up a mentoring programme aimed at enhancing integration of migrant children. It is now available in English here, while the Czech, Polish, Slovenian and Romanian versions are currently in development.

One of the conference highlights was the panel where young mentors and children mentees from each country shared their personal experiences in the project. Speaking about their motivation to apply to this programme, they mentioned various reasons such as practicing the local language and meeting new people from the host community. “I wanted to have more Czech friends and more possibilities to communicate in Czech language” – said Gulum, a mentee from the Czech Republic.

As some other youth, Marta, a mentor from Poland, decided to participate in both mentoring cycles. “I saw the power of this project and I loved meeting new people, new cultures and I encouraged my friends to take part in the second edition. I think there is a great need for this programme, I see how it responds to the needs of the children,” said Marta.

Mentees were asked to share their favourite memories of the programme and the most useful aspects for them. “The most useful for me was that I could practice the language and also build relationships and have trips to other cities," said Fares, a mentee from Slovenia.  

Mentors also acknowledged that the programme had some challenges and not just because of the Covid-19 pandemic which affected most of the second mentoring cycle. “For me, the experience was challenging first because we had to overcome cultural and language barriers. But we managed to deal with them through games and different activities. […] We never got to fully overcome these barriers, but we learnt how to cope with them, and I think that’s the most important part. […] It was totally rewarding to help children and to see their smiles, energy, and genuine enthusiasm all the time.” – explained Sabina, a mentor from Romania.

The final session of the event was a roundtable discussion with invited guests from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs, the Intake and Family Support Services in Malta and the Jesuit Refugee Service Croatia. The discussion focused on the importance of mentoring programmes in the integration process of third country national children in Europe and also the possible use of such programmes, like MINT, in other country contexts.

Among the conclusions of the conference was that mentoring programmes should be more widely adopted and carried out as they can create bridges between local and migrant communities. They can help to empower both migrant children and local youth while also help to overcome cultural, social and language barriers.

Terre des hommes and its partners are grateful to the speakers and guests. The event was part of the regional project "MINT – Mentoring for Integration of third country national children affected by migration", funded by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.