Niki: Taking Lucy from Isolation to Friendship

Meet one of our brilliant mentors called Niki. Niki has lots of experience assisting those with high support needs. She’s worked at the refugee camps in Cyprus, and understands the value of simply having somebody to talk to, seek advice and learn from. Now back in London working as a Civil Servant, she continues to help the refugee community by volunteering her time after work and has held regular meetings with her Mentee, Lucy, in a café for the last six-months with the aim to overcome her initial challenges.

Lucy is from Somalia and when she first arrived in the UK at 23 years old, she was struggling to adjust to life in London. Upon arrival, she moved to Croydon yet spent most of her time at home alone, unable to explore her surroundings due to her anxiety and lack of confidence. Her situation was challenging as her English was limited; she felt she didn’t have any friends or people to spend her time with; and she was not in education. She also didn’t feel comfortable with the people she lived with but was unable to move out due to a lack of suitable housing.

After being referred to Hope for the Young, she was welcomed onto the Mentoring Project and paired with Niki. Mentoring has not always been easy. The first obstacle Lucy and Niki had to overcome was the language barrier, especially when trying to communicate complex things like feelings and emotions. Their initial exchanges required a lot of mutual effort. Gradually, however, (and with a little help from Google Translate) Lucy’s English improved, and so did the relationship with Niki. Over the months, Lucy, who was heavily influenced by her unstable situation and past traumas, became more confident and relaxed in her new environment.

Whilst Niki felt she was able to help Lucy with logistical tasks like filling in forms and liaising with professionals, it was the regular reassurance that Niki provided that turned mentoring into something beyond just practical support. Anxiety could sometimes be debilitating for Lucy and prevent her being able to attend her sessions every week, yet knowing Niki was there when Lucy needed, proved invaluable towards building an ever-stronger bond. “I’ve made a new friend”, Niki reported in their final assessment. She also said that, thanks to their matching personality, the two of them had also had a lot of laughs during their meetings. The warmth of friendship was something Lucy experienced too. “It is nice to have met Niki. She understands me, I’m happy” she said.

17 months after she set foot in the UK, Lucy was already a much more confident young lady and less isolated than she’s ever been. Mentoring helped her achieve a significant improvement in her English abilities, a boost in her confidence, and the stability she was lacking. Lucy has now found a more stable housing arrangement and not only started college but quickly moved up a level in her English class. “Meeting Lucy has been great. She is very funny and we have very friendly interactions. I think Lucy has become a lot more confident in her English and is keener than before to get involved in different activities” Niki states.

The story of Niki and Lucy speaks volumes of the value of mentoring and proves that it is a two-way relationship that enriches the lives of both our Mentees and Mentors. It creates strong bonds between different people living in the same communities but unlikely to have ever got to know one another otherwise. As Niki concludes, “Mentoring Lucy has definitely shown me the value of a friendly face and ear when everything is unfamiliar. I’ve realised how important is it for our mentees to have someone to depend on; someone they can trust to follow up on what they’ve said they would do, and regularly be there to discuss things with. I think it has made a really positive difference, and I will continue to do as much as I can with Hope for the Young.”

If you’d like to become a Mentor for Hope for the Young, to provide tailored support to young refugees and asylum-seekers, please take a look at our Mentoring page to find out how to apply.