City mentor helps lonely refugees

IMAGINE exploring Sheffield with a new set of eyes and ears.

The city may be one of the friendliest in the UK but, when everything here is so completely different from home, it can still be a daunting place.

That's the reality for the scores of refugees who arrive here each year, having been forced to flee their home countries because of the threat of persecution, imprisonment, and even death.

But a befriending scheme working in the city is helping these vulnerable people overcome such barriers and fully settle into life in Sheffield.

Time Together, run by the Northern Refugee Centre and national volunteering charity TimeBank, helps refugees integrate by matching them with local people in one-on-one mentoring relationships.

Most Popular

    The mentors' role is to support, encourage, motivate and guide as their charge tries to achieve in education, employment and integration.

    Alphonse Wantete came to Sheffield in 2001, seeking refuge from the political struggles in his home country - the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has not seen his five children since he left and it isn't safe for him to return home.

    Alphonse said: "When I arrived I was frightened by the challenge of starting a new life in a new country.

    "I came to Sheffield and I felt lost and confused - I didn't know anyone and I couldn't speak much English."

    The future looked uncertain for Alphonse, who had few recognised qualifications. But, with the support of mentor Anderson Moyo, he is now getting to grips with his new life.

    The 55-year-old added: "I'm so grateful for the support I get from Anderson. With his help, I was able to sign up for an English course at college.

    One day I hope to go to university and help others who are in the same position as me."

    Anderson, aged 34, who arrived here from Zimbabwe four years ago, wanted to help out others who were going through the same thing he did.

    Anderson, who lives in Gleadless, said: "The stress and shock you go through when you first arrive can be extreme."

    Click here to return to main news index.

    Got a view? Add your comment below.