August 17, 2021

Borderlands Mentoring Project

Borderlands is a Christian charity supporting asylum seekers, refugees and vulnerable migrants in the Bristol area.

The people we work with face many challenges to building a new life in the UK. Covid has worsened issues of food insecurity, social isolation, digital exclusion and mental health problems.

Our Mentoring Project provides one-to-one practical and emotional support from volunteer ‘mentors’ to help refugees and asylum seekers make their own way in life. Support includes: help navigating the asylum system, applying for jobs, improving conversational English, accessing college courses and training, and getting to know the local area.

Here are just a few examples of how the project has helped our ‘mentees':

  • J improved his skills in CV writing, job applications and interviews. He got a job working in a coffee shop and then started a finance internship in London.
  • N completed the complicated application and registration process to become a taxi driver and is now an Uber driver.
  • S’s mentor helped her to liaise with landlords and find somewhere to live.
  • F’s mentor assisted him to obtain travel documents to reunite with a family member in Europe after 16 years
  • a Syrian family were helped to register with a GP, enrol in English classes, secure school places for their children and find bikes to get around more easily.
  • I’s mentor helped her show she was exempt from a large sum of money charged by the NHS for some maternity and dental treatment, which had caused her great stress.

In response to Covid, the Mentoring Project has continued both remotely and face-to-face depending on restrictions. Mentees have needed emotional support to cope with isolation, anxiety and uncertainty about the future, especially with many asylum claim decisions being delayed. We also ran some special ‘sleep sessions' to help mentees suffering from nightmares, flashbacks and anxiety attacks to find ways to relax and improve their sleep.

Our mentors have assisted their mentees to get smart phones and phone credit so they can get online, and to ensure those self-isolating have enough food and basic provisions. They kept mentees up to date about government restrictions and Home Office updates, encouraged them to exercise and keep healthy, and helped make sure their children got support from schools.

We have also supported asylum seekers (victims of trafficking) temporarily housed in a central Bristol hotel who were isolated and unable to access face-to-face services. Our mentors have supported these women to get to know Bristol, navigate the asylum system and access college courses and English classes.

“I feel that I have achieved so much. Jess has helped me through the asylum process, helped with housing and college. Everything is very positive! It is very good to have someone there who is by your side and helping you." Luwam, Eritrea

A grant from the Plater Trust enabled us to help over 70 asylum seekers and refugees with the project over the last two years.