Social Mentoring in Germany
Who will help me to find my way in Germany and settle down?
When you are new in Germany, suddenly, everything might seem foreign and disorientating. Wondering how you should navigate your new life? There are many counselling centres supported by various organisations that offer you help, for instance, to do your paperwork or solve legal issues. That is great support, but nothing can replace personal connections. To have someone who accompanies you over a longer period of time and supports you with everyday questions and appointments is much better. A person with whom you can also talk and spend your free time; someone who might even make you feel like a friend and family. But where do you find such a person? Social mentoring programmes are a great option to try. These programmes are voluntary and provide their service free of charge.
Good to know: Even if you have been in Germany for a long time, you can benefit from the many advantages of mentoring programmes to seek support or pass on your knowledge about life in Germany to those seeking support.
What do I need to know?
If you are new to Germany, having someone to help and advise you could be a great help. Social mentoring programmes offer the possibility for persons looking for support to connect with those eager to provide support and become their sponsors. Mentors are people who like to accompany other people on their new path in Germany. They help you to find your way around and take part in social life in Germany. However, the mentors are also interested in learning from you, be it your view of the world, your language or culture and much more.
To participate in a social mentoring programme, you must first enrol. For more information, see the "Where do I enrol in a social mentoring programme?" section.
Good to know: The person offering help is called a mentor ("Mentor*in"), and the person who receives support is a "mentee".
Please note: On the website of the federal programme „Menschen stärken Menschen", you will find an overview of organisations and associations whose members offer mentoring programmes and sponsorships in Germany.
In a sponsorship, you have the opportunity to become part of a so-called tandem, a 1:1 sponsorship in which a mentor supports a mentee. You can also find a sponsor as a family. Then one person sponsors your whole family.
Sponsorships are offered for adults as well as for children and young people. There are also special offers for students, seniors and women. If there is no special offer for women in your city, as a woman you can still request a woman as a mentor from other mentoring programmes.
Many social mentoring programmes offer support in everyday life or upon arrival in Germany. Others focus on education, e.g., studying, homework aid and language tandems. When registering, you can indicate which topics are essential to you.
Good to know: In the section "Are there sponsorships for children and young people?" you will find further information on sponsorship options for children and youth.
With a sponsorship, you have a direct contact person who will support you when you arrive in Germany, so you don't have to face many challenges alone.
You can meet people who know their way around Germany. This makes it easier to participate in social life and to feel like a part of society. In addition, you can better improve your German language skills with the help of a sponsor.
Please note: Children in the families of new immigrants and refugees, especially school children often learn German the fastest. They are often given the responsibility of supporting their families with dealings with the authorities, translating documents, and interpreting the conversations at the doctor's or when communicating with the school. This can overwhelm and burden children. If you instead get help with a sponsorship, you can also protect your children from such a burden.
They can, for instance, accompany you to appointments. Many mentors also provide support with administrative matters as well as jobseeking or flat hunting. If you have children in school or kindergarten, you could also get support in this regard.
These are just a few examples because there are many ways in which a mentee and mentor can agree to help each other.
As part of the sponsorship scheme, you can agree to spend your leisure time together; be it going for a walk, a visit to the cinema or museum or just cooking together. Perhaps the sponsorship will even develop into a friendship.
In any case, you are not alone with the challenges that life in Germany entails. No matter what you do together, your knowledge of German will constantly improve as a result of your interactions.
Keep in mind: A sponsorship is a cooperation and not a one-way street. The two involved individuals give each other new insights and get to know new perspectives and other languages and cultures.
Social mentoring programmes adhere to quality standards and train their mentors. The mentors may only start a sponsorship with a mentee after completing the training. In this way, they are well-prepared for their tasks.
They also support others voluntarily and without payment. This is called "voluntary work". Mentors often take part in these sponsorship programmes because they like to support other people, engage in intercultural exchange and want to help shape society in a positive way. Some have had the experience of building a life in a new country themselves, so they know how helpful it could be to have someone by your side to help you through such an experience. Therefore, you can expect that your mentor will support you for the right reasons and with commitment.
Various organisations, associations and projects offer social mentoring programmes in Germany. Such programmes are set up professionally and future mentors first go through a training course that prepares them for their tasks and responsibilities. Mentees also receive information in advance and state what they are looking for.
If you would like to participate in such a programme, you first need to enrol. The easiest way to do so is via the platform patenmatch.de. On this webpage, you can enter your search query in German, English, Russian or Ukrainian. The employees then connect you to the appropriate mentoring programme. For more information, see the "Where do I enrol in a social mentoring programme?" section.
In the next step, you will be contacted by the mentoring programme and provided with information about the programme. Here you can also clarify which topics matter to you most. It can sometimes take a month or longer to find the right mentor.
Afterwards, you can exchange ideas and get to know each other. You can, for instance, decide when you want to meet, what you want to do or where you need support.
Please note: It's totally fine if you take some time to know each other better and get used to each other.
Both the mentor and the mentee are supported by the programme provider during their sponsorship. This usually also offers meetings with other mentors and mentees as well as joint activities. The length of the sponsorship depends on the provider of the programme. It can run for 6 months or 1 year. After this time, however, you can continue to participate in the programme's events and be part of the community.
Good to know: If you and the person (mentor) do not understand each other, talk to each other first. Maybe it's just a misunderstanding. Your contact at the mentoring programme can also help you. Surely a solution can be found.
Please note: Many social mentoring programmes and sponsorships are conducted in German and English, therefore German and/or English language skills are required. When registering, indicate which languages you speak. Perhaps you will find someone who also speaks your language. However, this cannot be guaranteed. You have better chances of finding a sponsor in other languages in similar programmes offered by migrant self-organisations. You can find out more about such programmes in the section "Are there sponsorships in my language?".
One of the websites you can register directly is the Start with a Friend mentoring programme where tandem sponsorships are offered in over 20 cities.
After filling out the online form on patenmatch.de, they will search for the right sponsorship programme among multiple existing organisations. This is only possible in German, English, Russian and Ukrainian.
Note: Unfortunately, mentoring programmes are not available in every town or village but local clubs or the municipality may offer similar programmes. If you live in a shared accommodation facility, you can ask the social workers in your facility for such programmes. You can also ask at the town hall or go to the nearest migration counselling centre and make inquiries. Visit our local search page and enter the name of your place of residence to look for services such as counselling centres.
The mentors support others voluntarily and do so out of conviction. If you feel that the support provided is not adequate, you can say so.
But keep in mind: The mentors do what they do on a voluntary basis and also have their own lives. They go to work, need to keep their own appointments, pursue leisure activities or spend time with their families. They cannot be available 24 hours a day. It is best for you both to clarify from the start when you have time and where you need support, etc.
Your role in the sponsorship can vary based on what you and your mentor agree on. Keep in mind that your mentor also has their own expectations. It is best to discuss mutual expectations at an early stage. In order to establish a good relationship, both should stick to agreements; this is the only way you can ensure building a successful sponsorship and perhaps even a long-term friendship.
No, participation in social mentoring programmes is free. The mentors do not receive any money from the mentees.
At migrant self-organisations, you have the possibility to find a mentoring programme in your language. These organisations offer sponsorships at various locations in Germany:
- Turkish Community in Germany ("Türkische Gemeinde in Deutschland"– TGD)
- Social Service of Muslim Women ("Sozialdienst muslimischer Frauen")
- Welfare Office of the Maliki Community in Germany e.V. ("Wohlfahrtsstelle der Malikitischen Gemeinde Deutschland e.V.")
- Association for Intercultural Welfare, Empowerment and Diversity ("Verband für interkulturelle Wohlfahrtspflege, Empowerment und Diversity")
- Social Services and Youth Welfare gGmbH ("Soziale Dienste und Jugendhilfe gGmbH")
You can visit the websites of the individual organisations and associations. Look there for mentoring and sponsorship projects–on the respective project pages, you will find information about which member organisations offer social mentoring programmes and sponsorships and can ask about the languages in which sponsorships are offered. There you can also find out in which cities the programmes are available. Contact the appropriate member organisation directly. You will then receive further information on the registration process.
On the website of the Federal Association of German Youth in Europe, you can find associations whose members carry out projects for children and young people. Some of them offer mentoring programmes and sponsorships. Go to the website of the relevant association and then click on the website of the member organisations to search for mentoring and sponsorship projects.
You can also find many different offers on the website of Schülerpaten Deutschland e.V. This mentoring programme offers individual sponsorships and joint activities such as trips, workshops and various projects in Berlin, Dortmund, Frankfurt am Main, Hamburg, Merseburg and Munich. The students receive a visit from their sponsor every week and get private tuition and help with their homework. They can also do various activities together with their sponsors and strengthen their social skills.
When you fill out the online form on patenmatch.de, you can specify that you are looking for a sponsor for a child or young person. The website allows you to enter your search query in German, English, Russian or Ukrainian.
Yes, you can also become a mentor.
For example, former mentees who have settled in well can support someone themselves if they like. If that applies to you and you would like to become a mentor, just check with the mentoring programme you attended. However, you are not obliged to become a mentor.
You can also become a mentor if you were never a mentee before. Select an organisation on patenmatch.de and register there as a mentor. You can, for instance, register as a mentor with Start with a Friend. In the next step, you will be contacted and given further information.
You can also register as a mentor in the "Neustart im Team" programme. This programme is another humanitarian admission programme for refugees who are particularly vulnerable and aims to make it easier for refugees to settle into society. The programme links vulnerable refugees to sponsors who are willing to provide them with a living space and help them to integrate.
In addition to social mentoring programmes, you also have the opportunity to get to know people in language cafés or sports clubs. Use our local search page to find one– enter the name of your place of residence and search, e.g., for a "Language Café" nearby.
Mentoring programmes offer refugees and people in need of protection, students, women, seniors, children and young people support when they arrive in Germany and help them integrate into the new society easier and faster.