Diary of a refugee's mentor

Faduma<img class=I keep meaning to start a diary of my volunteering - it's so easy to forget the little things you do that have an impact in some way.

I mentor a refugee through one of our projects to help her with things that as British citizens we take for granted - like renting a flat, getting work experience, finding out about great places to visit and simply practicing her English so she can eventually get a job over here.

I really love it. I can't tell you how much I've learnt - things like understanding the benefits refugees are entitled to and learning about the political unrest situation in her country. Cultural things like learning how to make yummy tea made with crushed cardomon seeds too. I've also learnt about how hard it is to live in London if English isn't your first language and you're not familiar with how things work.

Even during our meeting last week - in the space of two hours we still didn't manage to find the cheapest option of how to travel from South Croydon to Brixton, despite asking at the underground station, looking on the TfL website and calling the TfL number. And even just going to a local library to sit and practice her English grammar was impossible!

As a mentor you have to be careful not to just do things for your mentee - it's all about helping them to do it for themselves so that they feel independent and confident. For example, she wanted to find out how much housing benefit she was entitled to so that she could rent a place of her own. I explained that she could try and ring the local council and I told her the sorts of things she needed to ask. It would have been far too easy for me to just ring the council for her. I think she really appreciated that. She was so happy that she'd managed to find something out for herself. You see, it's the small things that can make such a difference. And they all add up.

Refugee Week is actually coming up from 14-20th June and people are asked to get involved in the Simple Acts campaign. So have a think and then pledge your act - help them reach their target of completing 20,000 Simple Acts by World Refugee Day on 20th June. What simple act could you do to help a refugee feel more part of our society? One idea might even be to pay a visit to this wonderful looking refugee art event exhibition on the Southbank on 13th June...