All content of this site is published under the Creative Commons License “CC-BY-SA”


Implementation of a Mentorship system to support the Volunteers is essential to support their healthy long term engagement with the organisation and there are many different models out there. The most effective and straightforward model appropriate to the number of Volunteers, and taking into consideration the specific demands of their work, should be adopted.


Providing structured Mentorship to the young Volunteers is essential good practice in helping foster harmonious working relationships, providing internal and external help and advice to newly arrived Volunteers and in providing a safety net that will enhance their confidence in new working and living territory.

Volunteer Coordinators as Mentors

As practised by Cloughjordan; also partially by Ängsbacka: current Volunteer Coordinators are trained Counsellors

The Volunteer Coordinators are the first port of call for the Volunteers. 

They resolve practical and daily living issues as well as ensuring smooth running of the programme, encouraging and facilitating extra learning, training and personal projects – but they can also act as Volunteer Mentors.

Our Volunteer Coordinators conduct additional one on one meetings that are less about work progress and more about additional social/personal issues or challenges.

They can also help sort out minor disagreements or disputes that are work or home based.


  • The Volunteer Coordinators are already handling a very heavy workload in managing the ESC Volunteer programme and in conducting all related workshops and feedback sessions, reporting back to the various organisations involved- the Community farm Board, the National Agency, the Sending organisation and to the ESC programme itself.
    Taking on a Mentorship role in addition to all the above can really increase the burden of work and there is enhanced risk of Coordinator burnout.
  • It may also be difficult to maintain clear boundaries between the managing of the Volunteer programme, which involves conducting Volunteer evaluations, and being Mentors to individual Volunteers.


  • Also they must be aware of and try to maintain the boundaries between being the ESC Volunteer Programme Coordinators and Evaluators, and acting as Personal Mentors:
    i.e. the Volunteer Coordinators have to be mindful about conflict of interest.


  • If a problem is arising due to their handling of a Volunteer situation- or in fact if they somehow are seen as a cause or partial cause of a problem-  they must be ready to call on external/neutral help and assistance for the Volunteer.


  • They must also be mindful of their personal capacity in terms of energy and time, to be effective Mentors to the Volunteers as well as successfully running the ESC Programme as Coordinators.

Peer Mentoring

As practised at Ananda Gaorii

Each ESC volunteer receives two Mentors upon arrival. 

  • One is external i.e. from outside of the Organisation, which the Organisation chooses for them. 
  • The second is an ESC Volunteer from the previous generation of Volunteers. 


A ritual is held with ‘speed-dating’ sessions to enable the Volunteers to choose their ESC-Mentor from that previous group.

During their volunteering term, each new ESC Volunteer has Check-ins, Reflection and Reviewing sessions with their Mentor once every 1-2 months, depending upon need.


Be aware that the main purpose of this approach is the creation of more trusting relationships between the previous and new Volunteers, as well as between Volunteers and the community.



  • Helps Volunteers overcome any difficulties arising during the adaptation period directly after arrival. 

  • Helps the new group of Volunteers to get into the flow of the community faster and to better connect with their new community through previous Volunteers.

  • As an organisation, it meant that the previous ESC generations who were already directly experienced in many problems that could arise for new recruits started to do a big part of this welcoming and induction job – and so it has become more like peer sharing and learning, which is more effective than the organisation imparting abstract information.

  • This form of Mentorship practice helps Volunteers to receive support and suggestions from people who had similar experiences to them in the past and to understand the fact that many of the things that they are going through are not unusual- that other young people before them also went through similar things. 

  • It is also easier to collect and act upon direct feedback, as this less formal peer led process allows for more honest sharing.



  • People who weren’t involved with the ESC programme, but who wanted to become a Mentor to the ESC Volunteers felt excluded.
    We overcame this issue via sharing sessions and providing info and explanations as to the importance of this practice remaining between ESC programme Volunteers.

Additional Mentoring Supports

Trained Counsellor: To support the Coordinators we also have at least one trained counsellor who meets with the Volunteers on a regular basis and who can increase these meetings to address any emerging issues with any particular individuals.

Professional Services: The above team also have access to nearby Professional Services for more serious issues including physical and mental health services.

Friends of Volunteers:
Cloughjordan have created a less formal network- a Whatsapp group called Friends of Volunteers: 

They are members of the wider Cloughjordan Community who can be called upon to help with practical issues i.e. offer lifts to town, provide clothing/equipment/food ingredients etc. Sometimes the Friends may even suggest outings and activities: cookery lessons, trips to the lake, etc.

In Sieben Linden this informal Support Group are known as Buddies or Godparents and they are assigned to individuals:


‘Buddy’ system:

Inspired by Sieben Linden; as practised at Sieben Linden, and practised in group form at Cloughjordan


What is it/ How do you do it?
The community is informed about the arrival of new Volunteers and it is explained how they can become a Buddy or ‘Godparent’ to one of them. 

At Sieben Linden the pairs mostly find each other organically after the Volunteer has his/her Life Storytelling evening with the community- which is how community members get to know the Volunteers better.

The community member then approaches the Volunteer and offers to be a Buddy.


Regular check-ins with the Volunteer are essential, both if they already have a Buddy/ Godparent and if they do not, how they feel about that, and how best to support them otherwise. 



  • As the Volunteer Coordinator is assigned as “one mentor for all”  i.e. not chosen by the Volunteers, not every Volunteer may be able to get along with that person and to share their emotions or problems with them, a deeper connection might develop with a Buddy/ Godparent – and that person is intended to be available for personal support and to answer questions about the community. 

  • The Buddy system is a support for the Volunteer Coordinator as s/he is able to check in with another person about a Volunteer if something occurs.

  • Being informal, if the match doesn’t work out, the Volunteer and the Godparent are able to let the relationship go.



  • If Community members aren’t naturally approaching the Volunteers, the matching process can take longer, leaving some Volunteers anxious.  

  • Some Volunteers are fine with just having the Volunteer Coordinator as “one mentor for all” and find the Buddy system unnecessary/intrusive.


What is Needed: 

  • Willing community members to step into the Buddy/Godparent role

  • A process for enabling the matching of Volunteer with the Buddy (e.g. Life Story evening as above, or other interactive info-sharing event.)



Work Coordinator for Volunteers:

As practised by Cloughjordan Community Farm (CCF) and Sieben Linden

CCF has a dedicated Farm Work Coordinator who helps the Volunteers manage the task rota and guides the Volunteers’ fieldwork, showing them how to perform the practical tasks. At Sieben Linden each working area has a specific supervisor fulfilling that role. 



  • This specific role is highly useful for supporting the Volunteers’ confidence and learning on the ground.The Work Coordinator can also be useful in encouraging team building and forging work solidarity.

  • S/he can also be instrumental in initiating farm team social outings and activity days, to add another layer of richness to the Volunteers’ experience.

  • It helps ensure that work problems and issues arising get dealt with promptly and efficiently and creates better Health and Safety standards for all those involved, including the organisation itself.



  • The Work Coordinator must maintain work boundaries and not try to take the place of personal mentors

  • S/he must also have the communication skills and experience to translate the Work Leader’s e.g. Farmer’s needs to the Volunteers