Why 'another' handbook on mentoring?
We know from research and experience that all kinds of school pupils can benefit greatly from having a mentor for a period of time, i.e. someone who is a role model and/or can help with developing perspectives for education and for future professional ambitions. Mentors can help to avoid school drop-out, but also to achieve the access to higher education.
There exist excellent handbooks on mentoring, however, there is something paradoxical about most of them, and that also relates to the practice of most mentoring programs: On the one hand, they very frequently address children and youngsters from migrant families because they are in general more likely to have problems at school or to be considered “pupils at risk”. On the other hand, the specific background of the mentees (be it the migrant background, the socio-economic status, the religious belief in the family or living in deprived area of a city) is conceptually hardly acknowledged or taken into account in most mentoring programs. A majority of them operate with mentors who are quite distanced from their mentees in their life situations and experiences. These projects simply do not look at the specific resources and situations in immigrant families and mixed neighbourhoods. We believe that this is a major shortcoming and therefore this handbook presents material and project portraits in which intercultural competences and the resources and potentials of young people from migrant families stand central.
As part of the SIRIUS network, in 2012 the European Network for Educational Support Projects (ENESP) was founded as a platform for exchange and cooperation between mentoring programs from six European countries. All the projects in the network put a strong emphasis on intercultural sensitivity in mentoring. Some were even started by immigrant or ethnic minority organisations, in others children of immigrants play a central role – not only as mentees, but also as mentors or even in the project coordination. For the ENESP-network it is essential to value particularly the educational resources in the immigrant communities themselves.
Goals of the handbook
With this handbook, the member organisations of ENESP want to share their experience in organising mentoring programs which respect and acknowledge the cultural backgrounds of the mentees. As the network itself, the handbook profits strongly from the exchange across country borders. This exchange has highlighted the fact that mentoring projects share a lot of common aspects, including the potential positive impacts, but also many challenges for creating sustainable good practices. The portraits and materials collected in this handbook show that interculturally sensitive mentoring is possible and how it can be implemented.
We do not want to replace other existing handbooks, but we believe that we have something important to add, something that has been ignored in previous efforts. The training of the mentors might be an example here. Other handbooks only mention themes which are directly related to coaching techniques and similar. These are important fundaments not to be ignored, but we think that the training and preparation of the mentors should also discuss intercultural issues and how to deal with the cultural background of mentees, their families and the mentors. We have learned in our project practices that the background is important for several specific goals of mentoring and at specific stages of the mentoring relationship. And this should be found back in the curriculum of the training of the mentors.
We used other handbooks as sources of inspiration; especially the online handbook of www.mentoring.org must be mentioned and recommended here. Another interesting training kit is the EMYA T-Kit, available at www.emya-mentoring.eu.
The handbook presented here is a collection of items and contributions from the member organisations and mentoring programs in the network. All of them wrote parts and contributed to those chapters in the handbook that were most relevant to them and shared their practical instruments. This handbook is going to be a constant work in progress as we are hoping to revise and enlarge it regularly.