HomeCommunity PartnersMentoring of students who have a refugee background

Mentoring of students who have a refugee background

Assisting newly arrived children on refugee or humanitarian visas with their educational transition.

thumb-mercyMercy Connect’s trained volunteers have an educational background and spend 3 hours per week nurturing the well-being and self esteem of these students.


Your donations at work (mid year update 2015)

“Quite often we focus on the student as the person who benefits the most from being a part
of the Mercy Connect Project but often the volunteers benefit just as much. At the end of last year, one of our mentors who had been a part of the project for 2 years, finished her university teaching degree and was offered a job at the school where she had been mentoring. As well as the satisfaction she gained from seeing her student learn and develop self‐confidence in his learning, she also received first hand experience in a school setting. She is now excited to think that she may have a Mercy Connect volunteer mentoring students in her class one day soon.”


Mercy Connect Ballarat – Helping Refugee Children in Schools

Mercy Connect is a volunteer program that helps refugee school students adjust to life in Australia. For students adjusting to a new language, different social rules and educational practices, school can be a daunting place.

Many refugee children are skilled language learners. English is often their third or fourth language. However learning a language while simultaneously trying to learn a school lesson is very difficult. A few moments spent working out a phrase their teacher used can result in a student losing the teacher’s chain of thought and falling behind.

Keeping up in class

The Mercy Connect program recruits, trains and supports volunteers to assist refugee students. Volunteers all have a background in school education. They may sit with a student during a class, explaining terms and requirements so they can more easily keep up with the class. The volunteers also help refugee students meet their homework requirements, making sure they understand what is being asked of them and generally supporting the students as they transition to life in Australia.

Support for volunteers

After their initial training, volunteers receive on-going support with up to four training days each year. This gives them an opportunity to get together, share their experiences and lift their own skills in providing support.

The funding we provide for this program is generated from Workplace Giving programs.

This organisation has received funding from United Way Ballarat in the following years:

2014, 2015, 2016

Your donations at work (mid year update)

24 volunteers have provided in excess of 400 hours of educational support to approximately 27 students at 6 local Ballarat schools.  The students include a mixture of nationalities including children from Sudan, Togo, Burma, Iraq and asylum seekers currently living in Ballarat in community detention.

“At the beginning of Term 3, 2013, the Mercy Connect Ballarat project began supporting students at a local secondary college, after being approached by the school for extra assistance for their students from a refugee background. A female Togolese student was paired up with a volunteer mentor for her double English class, once a week. This student was quite shy and struggled with writing and comprehension; although her oral English skills were good (English was actually her third language). This student has now been working with her mentor for 12months and there is a noticeable difference in the quality of her work and she has even initiated a buddy system where she is helping a younger Togolese student in a mentoring type role. As well as continuing to work with her Mercy Connect mentor in class, the student asked her mentor if it was possible to receive extra assistance once a week after school in the school library. The mentor tells me that she enjoys working with her student greatly and recently accepted a new job only after her new employer guaranteed that she could have Tuesdays off to continue with her Mercy Connect mentoring.

At the beginning of Term 2, 2013 one of our older/retired volunteers was paired with a 10 year old girl who had come to Australia as a refugee from Togo, Africa. This particular student came to Australia with her siblings to live with relatives late in 2012. Due to her age she was placed in a year 5 class in 2013. When the volunteer went to work with the student, twice a week during her two hour literacy class, the student was reading at a level 15 standard (equivalent to reading skills of an average 6 year old). The student was easily frustrated and had little confidence. After being mentored for 12 months the student was now reading fluently and is able to read small chapter books with expression and phrasing. She is now a happy, confident and cooperative student and her family is more confident about her ability to complete year 6 and move onto secondary school at the end of this year. She continues to work with her mentor twice a week.”




United Way Ballarat is working to advance the common good of our community by focusing on Education, Income and Health.  These are the building blocks for a good life—a quality education that leads to a stable job, enough income to support a family through retirement, and good health.  United Way Ballarat asks all the citizens of Ballarat and surrounding areas to do three things: GIVE – money and goods; ADVOCATE – on behalf of those who cannot; and VOLUNTEER – to invest time in our community More about United Way Ballarat


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