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Asylum speakers


In "The Journey", the inspiring podcast from Worldwide Tribe, Jaz O’Hara traces the refugee journey from start to finish, with heartbreaking and uplifting moments along the way. HostNation friends Henry and Afewerki are among her guests.

Listen to the podcast here:

...or read our story of Henry and Afewerki below:

“There have been great ways we can help each other,” says HostNation befriender Henry, as he and his Eritrean friend Afewerki tell their story in ‘A New Home’.

When HostNation befriender Henry invited Afewerki to the football for the first time, he realised he had underestimated his new friend’s sense of style. “Afe turned up in a three-piece suit and I was in a tracksuit!” he laughs.

Before they were introduced, Henry admits to feeling a little apprehensive. “It was new ground,” as he says. He wasn’t sure what to expect. But he needn’t have worried, Afe had it covered.

“I was relaxed,” says Afewerki. “We walked in Hyde Park and just became friends.”

The Eritrean’s calm approach to life, despite adversity, has been a hallmark of their friendship ever since. They often play football together or go bowling, they take walks or try all kinds of different cuisines. Afe is a regular visitor at Henry’s house where he loves playing with the baby.

The two men, who have now been friends for three years, were interviewed by podcaster Jaz O’Hara, after she spent three months following common routes of refugees and asylum seekers from North Africa and the Middle East to Northern Europe.

Theirs is a positive story of what it’s like for migrants to integrate into their newfound communities, and how much we all stand to gain from welcoming and interacting with refugees and asylum seekers. HostNation director Anneke explains to Jaz why she founded the charity:

“​It seemed to me that befriending was just an extraordinary thing to do… It was such a simple idea because you make introductions between people that you hope will get on and then you leave it up to them."

Anneke came up with the idea of creating an online befriending platform that volunteers could sign up to. "I thought OK, why can’t we use digital technology to scale up befriending opportunities both for befrienders and for refugees and asylum seekers, so that you can make a lot more matches and a lot more connections between people… It can be really transformative.”

For so many of our friendship matches, it has indeed been transformative. Henry describes how much he has learned from his friend: “Afe has achieved a lot in terms of what he’s set his mind to do, it’s been impressive to watch. His attitude to life is good…he’s been through a lot and he’s wise, despite being a lot younger. If something doesn’t work out for me I can be quite impetuous and get angry... but Afe says, ‘Chill out, you’re being ridiculous’. He’s never really fazed by anything.”

This wasn’t the way Henry had expected befriending to go. “I had thought it would maybe be the other way around – that being a bit older than Afe and being from the UK, I would be helping him and instead he’s like, ‘Relax my friend’! He could easily be a massive victim…but he’s always really chilled and things always work out really well for him.”

Anneke points to the strength and endurance so often shown by our refugee friends: “So many of the refugees that we come across are extraordinarily resilient, they’ve been through so much, and are still so positive about life, they’re a real inspiration…it really makes you look at your own life and realise how lucky you are.”

As for Afe, Henry was his first British friend, so meeting him opened a new door into life in the UK: “The first few months I found it difficult at the place where I lived, I couldn’t meet anyone,” as he says. Henry changed that. “I learned a lot of things about British culture,” says Afe, “and he has learned about Africa and Eritrea, about Eritrean food.”

“Afe and I are great mates,” says Henry. “I would really encourage other people to try it. You gain loads from it.”
Afe agrees: “I would like to suggest that people join HostNation, they will learn from each other and can support each other.”

As pod host Jaz concludes: “Henry and Afewerki represent how mutually beneficial the connection between refugees and host communities can be.”

For a fascinating and moving insight into refugee lives, do listen to all six episodes of 'The Journey'. Presenter Jaz O’Hara has four foster brothers from refugee backgrounds, making her a warm and empathetic listener as she interviews people at every stage of the refugee journey.


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