A mentoring project pioneered 23 years ago to help children from socio-economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods in Malmö has since gone international, changing the lives of thousands around Europe, and even beyond.

The Nightingale Project connects a Malmö University student to a anyone between the ages of eight and 12 who live in an area of the city where there is a lower expectation of going into higher education after school.

Almost 1,400 children from such homes have now been mentored through the University's mentorship programme, known as ‘Näktergalen’ within the city. The model is now available in 23 cities around Europe.

... interviews reveal the positive significance that a functioning mentoring period has had, both for mentors and the children.

 

Since 1997, the children have been matched with a student mentor with the aim of not just providing a friendly and supportive presence, but also to expose them to their own potential and, in particular, what can be achieved through higher education.

The mentoring period lasts for eight months when the children and mentors meet regularly.
“We want to create meetings that develop the child, but at the same time give our students, who are the leaders of the future, an insight into people's living conditions. This is knowledge that you cannot learn,” says Carina Sild Lönroth, operations manager for Näktergalen.

Ten years ago, Sild Lönroth started a European network for cities that worked with the model. Recently they have celebrated the initiative’s landmark date when many representatives from the cities came to Malmö. At the same time, a study was presented in which some 60, both children and mentors, were interviewed about what the programme has meant to them.

“Since the launch of Näktergalen, 85 per cent - some 1388 mentoring couples - have completed their mentoring periods. The interviews reveal the positive significance that a functioning mentoring period has had, both for mentors and the children. Some associate it with fun memories, while others describe how it had the most vital significance,” says Lars Lagergren, the researcher who conducted the study.

Text by: Jessica Bloem