THE POWER OF BEFRIENDING
“It’s a way of helping a refugee but coming at it from a more joyous perspective.”
We love Chloe’s description of what we do at HostNation. We want to celebrate the simple joys that bring people together in friendship. It's what we're all about.
Chloe, an apprentice solicitor, was the friend Shoaib needed to break the gloom of waiting on his asylum claim, far from his home and family. Suddenly he began to experience the positive side of London, as they set out to explore the city together after meeting through HostNation.
“It’s very hard to live here when you’re alone…Chloe made it all easy for me,” Shoaib says. Fulfilling his childhood dream of going to Wembley Stadium was just the start (you can read more about that here).
For her part, Chloe found that she began to perceive things in a fresh way. So much that was normal for her was entirely new for Shoaib: “I’m getting to see London through his eyes,” as she says.
To our joy, the vast majority of our befrienders tell us that they have benefited at least as much as their refugee friends. "I can honestly say it's one of the most rewarding things I have ever done," exclaims one. Befriending is definitely not a one-way street. "It's not like volunteering," says another, "it just feels like having a mate."
Many outings have followed since Chloe and Shoaib first met, but perhaps the best times for both are the everyday moments when Shoiab is just part of the family – cooking spaghetti bolognese, playing Scrabble, going to a movie. The simple value of friendship means everything.
“Chloe is really helpful, caring and really kind. She introduced me to her family, her boyfriend, all her friends. That’s the best thing. I know there’s someone here who cares about me.” Shoaib
The friend who showed me the way
"HostNation is the best thing you can do for an asylum seeker," says Abdul.
Abdul describes himself as a shy person who found it hard to difficult to open up to people when he first got to the UK. This is the case for so many asylum seekers, who have typically got here under very stressful conditions only to find themselves isolated from community life, in temporary accomodation without the right to work or study.
“If you move to a new area, a new country, a new culture, it is so hard,” Abdul explains. “I don’t get close to people so easily.”
“I feel more positive with Jordan in my life. I don't feel alone.” Abdul
But after meeting Jordan through HostNation, life started to change. “Jordan is compatible and I can talk to him about anything,” explains Abdul. “If you have a connection with someone who lives here, who grew up here, you just hang out, become a friend, and you know what’s going on. He was the friend who showed me the way."
The two often play football together, after Jordan introduced Abdul to his team. On a golf outing, Abdul turned out to be a natural; and at a visit to Brighton this summer they both got their helmets on to go zipwiring.
“Abdul is a deep thinker,” says Jordan, reflecting on how much he himself has learned from the befriending experience.
“The similarities between people from different parts of the world and how we connect and how we bond has become important. We’ve forged a great friendship and I’m very grateful for that.” This summer Abdul was a guest of honour at Jordan’s wedding.
My world has grown bigger
Having a local friend opens up our cities to isolated people and brings new confidence, hope and healing.
The reality of life for too many people waiting in the Home Office asylum backlog is social isolation, poverty and fear. Often the only British people they meet are those in officialdom – social workers, lawyers, refugee services. So the chance to make a local friend, with whom they can just be themselves, relax and have fun, can be transformative.
“It has been a turning point for me. I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing now without Sabrina.” Sheila
Sheila fled a very painful past to seek refuge in this country. At first, she remembers, she was fearful about going around London, but Sabrina changed all that.
“She is very vibrant and energetic. She has introduced me to so many hubs that have helped me. My week is full: I have joined a choir, I am in a dance and yoga club, she has helped me to meet other African poets.”
The two women hit it off straightaway. “She just ran towards me and gave me a big hug, like we’d already met for a long time,” smiles Sheila, who feels much more confident now. “She is doing so well, and is such a delightful person,” says Sabrina.
“Friendship is the most important gift I have to offer.” Sabrina
After the trauma Sheila has suffered in her past, befriending is helping her to heal her wounds.
“From always being isolated, so lonely…when someone comes in, the light comes on: pow!
The centre of my world has grown bigger and bigger. She has enlarged it.”
Be part of something truly positive in our communities. We'd love you to become one of our Friends in Deed. If that isn't right for you, do consider supporting us, so we can make more friends for asylum seekers and refugees like Shoaib, Abdul and Sheila.