Volunteer Mentor Experiences of Mentoring Forced Migrants in the United Kingdom


  • Iona Tynewydd Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, Wales
  • Joanna Semlyen Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5372-1344
  • Sophie North University of East Anglia, UK
  • Imogen Rushworth Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich




volunteers, mentorship, forced migrants, PTSD, United Kingdom, phenomenological analysis


Research demonstrates the complex nature of supporting forced migrant populations; however, there is almost no research on volunteer experience of supporting forced migrants. This study explored the experiences of volunteer mentors in the United Kingdom. Eight participants were recruited from a single charitable organization. Data were collected using in-depth, semi-structured interviews, and verbatim transcripts were analyzed using Interpretative phenomenological analysis. Four superordinate themes emerged: “paralyzed by responsibility and powerlessness”; “weighty emotional fallout”; “navigating murky boundaries”; and “enriched with hope, joy, and inspiration.” Participants experienced a range of emotions as a result of their mentoring: from distress to inspiration. Findings suggest that focusing on achievable changes helps mentors. The mentoring relationship is hugely important to mentors but also requires careful navigation. The findings suggest that, whilst it is a fulfilling experience, support is required for volunteers mentoring forced migrants. The relative strengths and limitations of the study are considered. Theoretical implications and suggestions for organizations, clinical applications, and future research are provided.

Author Biographies

Iona Tynewydd, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, Wales

Iona Tynewydd is a senior clinical psychologist at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board. She can be reached at iona.tynewydd@wales.nhs.uk.


Joanna Semlyen, Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia

Joanna Semlyen is a psychologist and senior lecturer at Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia. She can be reached at j.semlyen@uea.ac.uk.

Sophie North, University of East Anglia, UK

Sophie North is a lecturer at the University of East Anglia. She can be reached at S.North1@uea.ac.uk.

Imogen Rushworth, Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich

Imogen Rushworth is a clinical associate professor in clinical psychology at Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich. She can be reached at i.rushworth@uea.ac.uk.



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Additional Files


2021-04-18 — Updated on 2021-05-25


How to Cite

Tynewydd, I., Semlyen, J., North, S., & Rushworth, I. (2021). Volunteer Mentor Experiences of Mentoring Forced Migrants in the United Kingdom. Refuge: Canada’s Journal on Refugees, 37(1), 38–49. https://doi.org/10.25071/1920-7336.40708 (Original work published April 18, 2021)