Bremen, Germany

Family Mentoring For Migrants: MEMI

Mentoren für Migranten (memi-Projekt)

March 5, 2009

Successful integration means long term residents as well as newcomers are at home in a changing city

The reality of migration is stressful – for both the immigrant and the host communities. Long term residents of a city may feel displaced, threatened and suspicious of the newcomers. When left unaddressed, these emotions become the root cause of social and cultural tension.

Truly successful integration involves practices that allow both groups to adjust and build a genuine relationship. The value of this relationship building is at the heart of the Bremen-based integration program called “Mentoren für Migranten” (memi) or Mentors for Migrants.

German families volunteer to “sponsor” immigrant families as mentors in order to help them get started and adjusted to their new lives. Along the way, both groups have the opportunity to learn about each other and build their relationships.

The Memi program was started by Diana Altun, the 26 year old granddaughter of a Turkish migrant who first came to Germany to work in the local steel mill. The program is built on the idea that genuine social integration comes from mutual acceptance and tolerance between different population groups.

“Most [migrant] families don’t want help with concrete kinds of things [e.g. visiting authorities or handling paperwork]. For them, it is all about getting to know someone from their new cultural sphere. The ideal result is friendship between two families. If they simply part ways after a year, then our program has failed in its efforts.”

The mentoring project is the only one of its kind in Germany at the moment, although it has received a great deal of interest from other cities and states. The program has had over 131 participants from many different countries of origin and resulted in strong, longterm connections across two generations -both the parents and their children. Diana Altun’s fresh idea has turned into a successful project and is now funded by the Federal Agency for Migration and Refugees.

For a selection of library resources related to this Good Idea, see sidebar at right.

Making it Work for You:

  • Successful integration initiatives are those that also take into account the needs and concerns of the host community
  • The strength of the Mimi program is that is measures success based on whether the families build actual long term relationships with each other