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30.04.2008

Bank Austria supports mentor project for Children and Youth Ombuds-Office & "Zeit!Raum"
Mentors Wanted: "Gemma's an!" – Assisting Young People in Crisis

Bank Austria will begin funding a volunteer mentoring program called "Gemma's an!" effective immediately (Austrian dialect for "Let's tackle it together!") This assistance will ensure continuous support to young people facing crises in their lives. The project is carried out by an association called "Zeit!Raum" (Time!Space). The Vienna Children's and Youth Ombuds-Office acts as supervisor and ensures compliance with all quality standards. Besides providing financial support, Bank Austria and Zeit!Raum will jointly coordinate the efforts to find and recruit new mentor candidates.

"We want to help young people who feel unable to meet the challenges of today's achievement society alone. We hope our efforts will open up new perspectives for them and give them courage and confidence about their futures. The nice thing about the project is its sustainability. It helps young people to help themselves," Bank Austria Management Board Member Regina Prehofer said in explaining the new initiative.
 "This backing from Bank Austria gives our project fresh impetus. Two social workers will now coordinate the mentors full time. That means up to 60 young people can be assigned voluntary mentors as early as next year—triple the current number. With this financial support, we can bring continuity into our efforts to find and train mentors and pair them up with young people," Peter Muchitsch, coordinator of the project from Zeit!Raum, said.

 "Gemma's an!" – Helping Young People to Help Themselves

The Children's and Young People Ombuds-Office was confronted with a growing number of requests for help from young people no longer able to handle the everyday pressures of school, work and the authorities by themselves. This was the major motivation for launching the "Gemma's an!" Project. Zeit!Raum has a street worker project called "Aufsuchende Kinder- und Jugendarbeit" that is also familiar with cases like this. Many young people also do not get the support they need at home for a variety of reasons. Inspired by similar international projects, the organizers came up with the idea of pairing up volunteer adult mentors with these kids to provide them strength and support.

Active Mentor or Sponsoring Mentor

In cooperation with Zeit!Raum, Bank Austria is looking for mentors in the general population and within its own ranks. Interested parties and Bank Austria staff can participate in the project in one of two ways, either as an active mentor or as a sponsoring mentor. Active mentors work directly with young people, helping them to handle official business with the authorities, for example, or meeting with their teachers and principals or simply by lending a sympathetic ear to their problems. This support from mentors is not meant as competition for the parents of these young people. The idea is to help young people help themselves. In most cases it should suffice to lend young people a helping hand so they can handle their own lives independently. Active mentors are trained in a series of six workshops on various subjects. Mentors gather once a month for a guided inter-vision group meeting.

Bank Austria is looking for voluntary mentors! For more information and an application form, please visit the Internet site www.gemmasan.at call project coordination at +43 (0) 699 109 59 489 or +43 (0) 699 109 59 487, or send us an e-mail at gemmasan@zeitraum.org .

Another option is to be a sponsoring mentor and donate money that benefits these young people directly.

Account for Donations
Reference:  "Gemma 's an!"
Account No.: 51512070303
Bank Code:  12000

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Enquiries:  Bank Austria Press Office for Austria
Alexander Tröbinger; Phone:  +43 (0) 50505 ext. 52809
E-mail: alexander.troebinger@unicreditgroup.at