Become a mentor for an international refugee in Cyprus

1. Private company program

Some private sector companies around the world host programmes to help refugees and subsidiary protection beneficiaries overcome the barriers to employment and provide the company’s staff with focused, structured, personalized and relevant volunteering opportunities.

The objective is to assist refugees to overcome barriers, including unfamiliarity with the work culture of the country of asylum, inadequate communication and presentation skills, qualifications that may not be transferable, or even lack of relevant work experience. The companies aim at equipping refugees with the necessary skills to find employment, and supporting refugees who are qualified and experienced in a given sector so that they can develop professionally in the country of asylum. Specifically, the companies support with staff who on a volunteer basis guide a number of refugees through CV writing, applications, practice of interview techniques, oversee the actual interview process, identification of target companies, and of vocational training.

The programmes involve matching company volunteer coaches with refugees seeking assistance with job hunting. It is an example of Corporate Social Responsibility and of the way in which the private sector can contribute to support refugees. Companies value their staff gaining a new view of the world.

If your company wants to be socially responsible through this modality of cooperation, contact now UNHCR Representation in Cyprus.

2. Individual mentor: retired professional; active professional

The objective of this program (in process) is to offer to each refugee and subsidiary protection beneficiary, during a period of time, a personal mentor from the receiving community to share knowledge and experience on a one-to-one basis to help achieve integration goals.

The program is directed to active or retired professionals with valid experience to make a human contribution by offering help in addressing initial critical refugee needs, such as providing accurate information, advice to overcome difficulties to access housing, to access employment, to access education, vocational training or benefits. The mentor can, through its personal network, offer employment advice to help the refugee enter long-term employment at the earliest opportunity and making the best use of his/her skills The program aims at building confidence and self esteem and maintaining in the refugees and subsidiary protection beneficiaries the sense of hope for the future by encouraging participation and integration.

Often times despite being desperate to work, employment prospects for refugees are poor as they face a multitude of barriers (unimaginable by nationals) preventing them from accessing jobs. Some difficulties are: no prior work experience in Cyprus, employers unable to understand qualifications from country of origin, no references or certificates from country of origin, lack of understanding of the Cyprus job market, level of English and/or Greek language.

Remember that it is legal to employ a refugee and a subsidiary protection beneficiary (SPB). Refugees have the same employment rights as Cypriot citizens. SPB have the same employment rights after one year from the date this status was granted. Remember that world wide the following qualities of refugees are acknowledged: perseverance, resourcefulness, cross cultural experience. A refugee can become your good colleague.

What can a mentor do? Provide an employment to a refugee, employment mentoring (advice and information), or just remember refugees when you are recruiting! Prepare the refugee for the cross cultural communication in Cyprus, or to support in language learning.

The individual mentors will be screened to ensure sufficient professional and life experience to be capable of resourcing a mentee. Mentors are also given information on referral services and general information on their mentees country. Sensitive and considered matching of refugee mentee and mentor on the basis of refugee’s career goals and the mentor’s professional experience is crucial. The matching process aims to link a mentor and mentee of the same gender and age range in an effort to avoid cultural taboos.

Some programs around the world encourage: the signing by both mentor and mentee of a ‘Participation Contract’ to prove commitment to the program and an understanding of the expectations on them to engage; fortnightly meetings between mentor and mentee as a minimum commitment in the ‘Participation Contract’; overall both mentor and mentee are expected to make a minimum one year commitment which is outlined in this contract, but this could vary depending of the intensity of their work and their success.

If you are interested in this program contact now UNHCR Representation in Cyprus.

Discover also our related article "Make acceptance yours".

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