Please note: at this time, we are unable to match every volunteer applicant with a mentee due to limited resources. We will keep your application on file and reach to those who best meet the criteria for our students and program needs. Please consider donating to RYP directly or starting a fundraiser on Facebook so we can increase our capacity!
Have you been looking for a meaningful way to serve others in your community?
If you are an adult, age 21 or over, consider becoming a mentor to a refugee youth or family in Baltimore City or County.
The BCCC Refugee Youth Project has two mentoring programs: one that matches caring individuals with youth in 8th-12th grade or parents of school-aged children, and another that connects UMBC students with 11th- and 12th-grade students.
We serve new Americans who are primarily from Congo, Syria, Eritrea, Sudan, Burma, and El Salvador. We recruit, train, and match mentors 3 times per year: a fall cohort in October/November, a spring cohort in March/April, and a summer cohort in May/June.
Our program is home-based, meaning that mentors need to travel to the residence of a family each week. Having a car is not required but most mentors find it helpful.
You don’t need to speak another language to participate! One of our goals is to help increase the English proficiency of the families we work with. You don’t need to be a native English speaker, either — some of our best mentors have learned English as a foreign or native language.
We need youth mentors to commit to meeting their mentees for two hours per week for at least one full year or longer.
Not the right fit?
You can still be a part of RYP by becoming an after-school tutor, checking out our other volunteer and internship opportunities, supporting us through a monetary or in-kind gift, or sharing what you think on through social media!
Are you a college student? Refugee Youth Project’s College JUMP (Journey Upward Mentoring Program) was created in 2015 through a partnership between the BCCC Refugee Youth Project and University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) in response to the need RYP staff saw among its students for more college preparation. Undergraduate students volunteer as near-peer mentors to 11th and 12th grade refugee students in Baltimore City and County. If you are a local university student that wants to help students with college access, please email email@example.com for more information.
Still have questions?
More details below:
The refugee or asylee youth referred for RYP’s mentoring programs are often in need of additional social, academic, or emotional support to adjust to their new lives in the US, or they may live farther away from our current after-school program sites.
Mentors have an opportunity to play a role that truly benefits the families we serve—first and foremost by providing reliable friendship and support to a family for a period of 1 year or more.
Mentors typically engage in activities such as tutoring, homework help, and field trips to explore Baltimore.
All mentors help their mentees by creating wider social networks of community members who care about people from refugee backgrounds. RYP hosts monthly or bi-monthly get-togethers for mentors and mentees, too!
Both programs are ideal for working professionals who can’t volunteer at our after-school programs due to timing—many mentors meet with their mentees in the evenings or on the weekends.
Most of the refugee families served by RYP’s programs live in the Moravia/Frankford neighborhood of Northeast Baltimore (zip code 21206) or in Arbutus/Catonsville (zip code 21229), but occasionally there are families in Dundalk, Middle River, Essex, or Columbia that are referred by IRC caseworkers or teachers. RYP will take your location into account when making a mentoring match. Mentors meet at the family’s home but can do planned outside activities with parental permission.
Make an Impact
There are always new families arriving in Baltimore that are grateful for the help and welcoming smile of a caring volunteer! Mentors often end up benefitting just as much from this volunteer experience as their mentees do: mentors ultimately learn about the language, customs and traditions of their mentees at the same time they’re teaching about American culture. Moreover, many mentors experience their own personal growth while helping a mentee explore and achieve his or her goals.
Mentoring a refugee youth is a unique chance to work with an incredibly resilient international population at a local level, and we hope you can become a part of a refugee’s successful acculturation as they start their lives in Baltimore.
I loved working with my mentee family. [The kids] were amazing and their mother is so invested in helping them. I have volunteered a lot throughout my life in a variety of different settings and this was one of my most rewarding experiences. I felt like I really made a difference in this family’s overall adjustment to their new life.
Sign me up!
- Duties and Responsibilities
- Desirable Qualities
- Orientation and Training
- How to Apply
- If matched with youth: Assist a refugee/asylee student (or set of siblings) with homework, test preparation, and school projects, explore resources in the Baltimore community; in some cases, build student proficiency and understanding of English
- If matched with parent(s): Assist with navigating the school system, explore resources in the Baltimore community; in some cases, build proficiency and understanding of English
- Serve as a positive role model, guide, teacher, and advocate
- Plan and participate in enriching activities with mentee(s)
- Help with goal setting and acculturation
- Meet one day per week for two hours, not including travel time to/from your mentee’s home, for at least nine months
- Follow mentor program policies and procedures, including confidentiality and mandated reporting requirements
- Commit to regular check-ins with RYP staff about student progress and submit monthly reports of activities and hours served
- Must be at least 21 years old
- Must be available for at least one year following the completion of the application process and being matched with a family
- Must complete an in-person pre-placement interview to assess suitability for mentoring
- Must attend a mentor orientation
- Must have a clean criminal history and pass a fingerprint-supported background check
- RYP is part of the Maryland Mentoring Partnership, which allows mentors to obtain a state and FBI background check for a discounted rate at state-operated fingerprinting facilities. Mentors will receive a discount card in person at a mentor interview or an orientation. Cards can also be mailed to you.
- Note: if you have received a fingerprinted-supported background check in the last 365 days, you do not have to complete this process again. Instead, you are encouraged to submit this form to CJIS.
- If driving mentees in a personal vehicle, must pass a driver’s license check and hold a valid license and car insurance.
- Ability to work independently
- Patience, flexibility, creativity and reliability
- Ability to take a strengths-based approach to mentorship; encouraging, optimistic, and persevering attitude
- Interest in learning about resettlement and refugee issues, including ethnic backgrounds of clients
- Ability to communicate clearly and effectively in English.
- Additional fluency in Tigrinya, Arabic, Burmese, Chin languages, Kinyarwanda or Swahili is a bonus, but not required
- Means of private transportation is preferred, but not required
- Learn about other cultures and countries
- Participate in events and trips organized by RYP
- Meet like-minded community members through volunteer meetings and events
- Make a meaningful impact in the life of a young person or family
Orientation and Training:
- New mentors must attend a 3-hour training session with RYP. Topics include: refugee definitions and resettlement, mentor roles and responsibilities, and techniques for working with English language learners. Mentor training times are TBA.
- Throughout the school year, the Refugee Youth Project offers additional training on topics relevant to mentoring newcomers. We also host social events for mentors, mentees, and volunteers.
How to Become a Youth Mentor:
- Submit our volunteer interest form and let us know that you would like to be considered for a mentoring position.
- An RYP staff member will contact you for an interview to determine your fit for the program and to learn more about your match preferences. If you plan to transport your mentees in your vehicle, please bring a copy of your driver’s license and insurance card.
- We will invite you to complete a fingerprint-supported background check and attend a new mentor orientation.
- Once each piece of this application process is complete, we will extend our formal offer for you accept this volunteer position.
For questions about this process, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do I need to speak another language to participate?
Since volunteers are working with students to help increase their English proficiency, you do not need to speak any language other than English to be a good mentor. It’s more important for mentors to be willing to work with learners of all English abilities and to be patient in the process—we need empathetic volunteers who are willing to put themselves in the learner’s shoes! If you do speak a language other than English (particularly Arabic, Nepali, Tigrinya, Kinyarwanda, Swahili, Burmese, or Chin languages), that’s a bonus but it’s not required. If you aren’t a native English speaker, that’s fine too—we just ask that you’re fluent in order to best serve our students.
What about transportation?
All volunteers must travel to and from sites via their own means of transportation. It is not required to have a car but most find it helpful for getting to the state-operated fingerprinting facility for background checks as well as traveling to/from your mentee’s home.
How long does it take to start working with a family?
This depends on a number of factors! Some of it is timing—like the timing of the next orientation, or interview availability—but it also could depend on which client referrals are a suitable match for your preferences and our needs. The results from fingerprinting are usually available within three days of your visit to the facility.
Is it okay if I have a vacation planned during my mentoring time, or if I have to travel occasionally for work? What if I have a variable schedule and can meet regularly, but not at the same time every week?
We realize that you have lives outside of volunteering! It’s fine if you need to miss a meeting or two because of other obligations—RYP simply asks that you communicate this to us as well as your mentee family ahead of time. Regarding the variable schedule, this usually doesn’t pose a problem for RYP but you may find it harder to connect with your mentee as much as you’d wish. We find that a regular schedule and structure is more conducive to meeting.
What kind of volunteers are you looking for?
We are looking for mentors that are dedicated, consistent, creative, and persistent. Many of the families that we work with have experienced a lot of upheaval in their lives and we ask that mentors truly commit to working with the youth or mothers.
We are also looking for mentors who have good boundaries and can help a family achieve self-sufficiency!