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Through Mentoring to Integration

Connecting children of foreigners with Czech volunteers is the main principle of the MINT project led by the Prague-based Organisation for Aid to Refugees (OPU). It is a very old form of education based on a relationship of two people, a young one and an older one. While the older ‘mentors’ pass on their experience, knowledge, and skills, the younger ‘mentees’ mainly learn from them. The project involves children with minimal knowledge of Czech who arrived in the Czech Republic not more than 3 years ago. 27 Czech volunteers (mentors) aged 18 to 25 connected with 30 children (mentees) aged 8 to 17. The children came from countries such as Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Vietnam, Syria, Venezuela, Russia, Kazakhstan, Guinea, and Afghanistan. Tereza, one of the mentors, emphasises that the project helps children break down the language barrier: ‘I think that children felt that they could talk to us without fear of being judged.’ Children and their mentors visited museums, the zoo, a jump park, and galleries, they tried out pedal boats and a climbing wall, and sometimes they just went for a walk together. Mentors helped children explore the offer of leisure activities, they talked about the celebration of traditional holidays throughout the year, and also explained what an informal conversation style looks like. Having developed a strong bond with their mentors, the children felt more self-confident and communicated more and more, thus improving their Czech. Inara mentioned that what she enjoyed the most were walks with her mentor and discussing all sorts of things with her. ‘Exploring Prague with my mentor while talking Czech made everything twice as good,’ says Inara. In addition, the mentor pairs met once a month during social activities. The first output of the joint effort of Czech volunteers and children of international parents was a theatre performance BELEBO reflecting children’s experience with integration in a new country. The second output of the whole group was a short film on the theme of Breaking Barriers. The group met in an online space in which they created videos, eventually combined in the film. The project MINT: Through Mentoring To Integration of Children of Migrants from Third Countries is funded by the EU Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.

source: Slovo Bulletin I/2021