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How to…Volunteer as a Mentor

Summereen Khan of Muslim Aid looks at the need for Muslim mentors in the community.

Although Muslim Aid is best known for its international development work, it also has an expanding UK development programme. Pathways to Citizenship is a part of that programme. The project is funded by London Councils and aims to support organisations working with young Muslims. We provide free training in management support and capacity building as well as working with Islamic schools.

 

Citizenship Award
We created the Citizenship Award to recognise the contributions of young Muslims by celebrating their volunteering and community work. Applicants are required to fill out a portfolio as evidence of their volunteering, work experience and other activities and we provide them with certificates and a special celebration awards night. In addition, ten young people will be eligible to receive a Citizenship Award and a prize.
Mentoring for integration
Pathways to Citizenship is also recruiting volunteer mentors to work with students from the Islamic schools we work with across London, in the hope of providing these students with positive Muslim role models.

 

Maimoona Waheed is a mentor who has joined the scheme.

“When I heard that an acquaintance would be running a project for youth mentoring at Muslim Aid, I instantly knew I wanted to be a part of it. Once I found out it was specifically for pupils from Islamic schools in London, I was sold.

 

As a teacher with previous experience of working at Islamic primary schools, I’ve always felt that, to a certain extent, children are not experiencing the same things that a child at a state-run school would. Islamic schools have a lot to offer and, in spite
of a lack of resources, funding and even premises, often provide children with a good education. The issue which was a greater concern for me was the lack of integration and social skills that resulted from being in such a sheltered environment. The lack of interaction with pupils from varied backgrounds and religions on a regular basis, as well as the lack of resources, means a holistic educational experience is not always possible.

 

As the eldest of three siblings and an educator, I fully empathise with why parents choose to send their children to an Islamic school. As well as being taught the National Curriculum they are also taught Qur’an, Arabic language and Islamic studies, not to mention picking up Islamic Akhlaaq and Adab. It is arguably every Muslim parent’s dream to educate their child in such a way – however this can have a detrimental effect in later life when going on to university or the workplace.”

 

The need for mentors
This is where the mentors of Pathways to Citizenship from Muslim Aid come in. A mentor’s role is not just that of a teacher, but also of a friend and role model. They ensure that their mentees develop, learn and grow as individuals and become true citizens, contributing positively to society.

 

Mentors can be a crucial factor in a child’s future success. They build a relationship with the child, helping him or her to achieve their full potential, overcoming barriers to learning. They cover issues such as punctuality, absence, difficult behaviour, developing focus and concentration, social attitudes and responsible citizenship. They also provide an example of someone living in today’s society with their Islamic values intact and working to achieve their dreams and fulfil their responsibilities, someone to whom they can relate and question directly.

 

Think back to your own school days: wouldn’t you have appreciated having someone there who wanted to understand you and was there to support you? What with all the pressures young people face these days, having a non-judgmental friend who has more knowledge and experience is invaluable.

 

A mentor needs..
Mentoring is geared to the needs of the individual child and the mentor needs to be able to empathise with the child. It is important that the mentor doesn’t attempt to contradict parents or teachers but rather, complements the role of parents, guardians and educational staff. Being a mentor is not always straight-forward. There may be difficulties in getting a child to be enthusiastic, in gaining their trust or even feeling like one is having a positive impact. This is to be expected as young people have a lot going on in their lives and are under an enormous amount of pressure. What they need most is support. It is a fine balance and can be challenging but, ultimately, it is extremely rewarding and, at the end of the day, we all have a duty to help the future of the Ummah.

 

The scheme is flexible and the CRB and expenses are paid for. So please do get in touch with Muslim Aid and do something small but hugely important – and truly make a difference to the next generation of Muslims.

 

For more information on mentoring, joining the project or our Citizenship Award please email: pathways@muslimaid.org.