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June 19, 2020

Refugee Week: Online mentoring helps change lives during lockdown


Refugee Week: Online mentoring helps change lives during lockdown

What I would hope with Abdullah is that I can give him confidence, make him feel that he is not alone and that there are people here who care, and want him to succeed.

These are the words of John, a solicitor with Coventry Building Society, who has recently signed up to mentor Abdullah, a Syrian refugee on World Jewish Relief’s Specialist Training and Employment Programme (STEP).  The Mentorship scheme is run in partnership with Business In The Community.

Abdullah arrived in the UK in 2017. With a degree from Damascus University in Electrical Engineering, and a long career working for a global electronics company, he hoped to gain work in his chosen profession.  He and his family had been brought to Britain under the government’s Vulnerable Person’s Resettlement Scheme, and Abdullah joined the STEP programme in Leeds, where we partner with The Refugee Council to help refugees gain the skills and qualifications they need to successfully find work, enabling them to build a new life, contribute to the economy and integrate into society.

Just before the Covid-19 outbreak, we helped Abdullah secure his very first paid position, a short term contract working in the print room of a nearby university. It was set to be a turning point in the family’s fortunes, after many years of displacement and trauma.  But with the pandemic came the closure of the university and the end of that work opportunity.

Abdullah has been using his time well in lockdown, continuing with online English classes provided by STEP and signing up for the mentoring programme, where thanks to video conferencing, he has been meeting up weekly with his mentor John via Zoom and using the sessions to work on his CV, interview skills and conversational English.

Abdullah on zoomAbdullah on the zoom call.

Abdullah says “John has given me a lot of valuable ideas. He helps me practice my English and I enjoy talking to him about work and about my experiences in Syria and Jordan. I used to work in a very famous electronic company and John has encouraged me to look for work in the company’s branch here”.

In turn John says “If I can make any little difference, that’s a good thing. Abdullah is a lovely guy, who is very well qualified. I enjoy talking to him about work, but also learning about his culture’.

The Zoom meetings are facilitated by Rebecca Ross, Programme Officer for World Jewish Relief’s STEP programme who says “All the mentors are so enthusiastic about our clients and constantly highlight how great they are, and how their past experiences can be transferrable to the UK context. I think the mentor’s positive outlook gives our clients an extra boost of confidence and the ability to recognise their value to employers”

Rebecca adds “Abdullah has been the first client on every call and has never missed a single session.  From what I have seen Abdullah and John have established a great relationship over their time together. You can tell Abdullah really appreciates the time John is giving up to mentor him.”

For Abdullah, his hope in the short term is to find a job as an electronics technician, and perhaps in the future, to have his own business.

Abdullah tells us “STEP support means a lot to me. You’ve supported me to boost my confidence and increased my ability to find work.”

With John’s additional support, we have no doubt he will continue to flourish.

STEP is run by World Jewish Relief and delivered in partnership with Horton Housing AssociationThe Refugee CouncilCoventry City CouncilBusiness in the CommunityThe Entrepreneurial Refugee Network and the Stand Up and Be Counted Theatre Company.

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Find out how we provide support for refugees through our employment programme and emergency appeals.