Nightingale project: social mentoring in Tarragona
Organisation : Tarragona - Quilòmetre Zero , Spain

The Nightingale Mentoring concept was born in 1997 in Malmö to facilitate meetings between university students and school children.  Taken from the bird that sings so beautifully when it feels safe, the name  also links to Malmö, the town of Hjalmar Gullberg, the writer for whom the nightingale provided such great inspiration. In Tarragona since 2014 we replicated the project and we have successfully developed it locally. Now, we have 30 couples of university students accompanying migrant or socially vulnerable children.

Agendas addressed
Social inclusion and integration
Pathways followed
  • Involve citizens through participatory implementation
  • Encourage local private and civic engagement
  • Promote social innovation supporting inclusion
mentors and children

Both Save the Children and Unicef ​​data show that at present one in three children in Spain is at risk of poverty or social exclusion. The childhood of our country is the group that most suffered the economic crisis and cuts in social aid. On the other hand, our vision is based on other analyzes such as the researchers Àngel Belzunegui and Ignasi Brunet, who speak of Tarragona as a city that presents social inequalities with a clear territorial distribution, among the traditional working-class neighborhoods Industrial workers' neighborhoods and the peripheral districts formed by urbanizations where the professional and patrimonial social classes reside. These physical demarcations are logically accompanied by other social delimitations. In addition, an ethnic grouping is occurring coinciding with the emergence of stable working-class young generations of traditionally working districts and the arrival of immigrant population that is most vulnerable to situations of economic crisis.

In Action
Mentor and child

This initiative is the first of social mentoring that it's been done in Tarragona. With the collaboration of different institucions and stakeholders the project has grown up and every year is involving more people. Different universities are involved in the process of the university students that participate like mentors. Universitat Rovira i Virgili (Tarragona) and Universitat Oberta de Catalunya are the example. 

Also different public stakeholders are an important part to implement the transformation, social services, education services, and civic services of Tarragona city council are involved and in collaborating with us to develop the programme.

Mentor and child


Children: Improvement of the competences. Language improvement Improvement of academic expectations. Improvement of communication skills. Knowledge of the local culture and customs. Knowledge of places in their immediate surroundings. Immersion in active and participatory leisure and opportunity to exercise leisure activities.

Volunteers:Improvement of the competences. Improvement of communication skills. Preparation for multicultural coexistence. Active participation in the diversity of the territory. Be an agent of change through being a positive reference. Social commitment Immersion in active and participatory leisure and opportunity to exercise leisure activities.

Local changes:The city as a space for multicultural interchange and diversity. Offer of better and new opportunities to vulnerable groups and to people who due to their cultural, social and economic situation do not have the same possibilities of local participation.


Social commitment of the university students and of the university: Is the first project that engages the Rovira i Virgili University, and they students in a project that requires a 8 months commitment, a supervision, and a big impact for the university. The students are knowing different social situation in their city that before their participation in the Nightingale they totally ignore.

They improve communicative skills, and relational skills and they develop new and innovative tools to live in a multicultural society.


In the case of the beneficiary children, the impact is enormous. Not only in terms of improving their academic expectations, but also in improving the language since they are mostly migrant children. Also in the discovery of a new culture and new places, which despite being in their immediate surroundings had never visited. For example: despite living less than 4 kilometers from the nearest beach, some had not seen the sea.

Challenges and lessons learned

One of the most important challenges is to keep the volunteers as mentors and to find more people that want to be part of the project as a volunteer. The lesson learned is that the person that participate without any special reward (like money, scholarships, or university rewards) is the most valuable volunteer that this kind of project can have.

Other important challenges are related to the importance to engage more stakeholders in the project, to finance more mentoring couples and to develop the project. It's a big challenge in our city for us, involve the local politicians.



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