We’re delighted to announce the launch of our new refugee befriending hub in Manchester.
HostNation NorthWest is a way for friendly locals to reach out to refugees and help them feel at home in our fantastic city. A cup of coffee or a walk in the park is all it takes. It’s about welcome and friendship for people who are escaping from trauma and conflict.
“Manchester is crying out for a scheme like this,” says Kim Gowland, one of our new team. “Greater Manchester has a proud history of helping people fleeing war and persecution, including Afghans fleeing the Taliban last summer. This year we expect to receive Ukrainian refugees, alongside those from Iran, Syria and Afghanistan among others, and we’re ready to support them.
“There is a brilliant network of organisations and partnerships supporting refugees and asylum seekers here, and we are excited about the potential of HostNation to complement that work by offering a welcoming befriending service.”
How it works
All you need is a couple of spare hours a week for a relaxed coffee with your refugee friend, a walk around our top heritage spots or a dive into one of Manchester’s great museums. Whatever appeals most to relax with a new friend.
“It’s up to you to choose your favourite places to share with someone who needs a friendly face, some local tips and a bit of English practice,” says Cara Dattani, who works alongside Kim. “Just sign up online with us and we’ll look out for a suitable friendship match for you with an asylum seeker or refugee. The initial commitment is for three months and after we introduce you, the meetings are completely informal and guided by you and your friend.”
People need people
Befriending a refugee can make a real impact on both sides of the match. Last year 93% of our London befrienders said they found the experience rewarding. “People need people,” as Cara points out. “It’s that simple.”
Most refugees have suffered trauma in one way or another; all have left their homes and everything most familiar to them. Many of them don’t know any local people outside of an often hostile refugee and asylum system, so a welcoming, interested and empathetic volunteer befriender can make a huge difference to their experience of the city. What seems like a simple chat over a coffee to the befriender can be a real lifeline to their refugee friend, helping them feel less lonely, less isolated and more part of their new home.
Kim, who has lived in Manchester for 25 years, knows that Manchester is full of friendly, welcoming and committed people who are ready to reach out and make friends with locally-based refugees and asylum seekers.
“We put a lot of thought into making the right match so that the friendship has the most chance of success. It literally can be life-changing for both parties.”
“Since the start of our friendship, my life has changed significantly,” says Eritrean asylum seeker Tes, who we matched in Tyneside through HostNation NorthEast. “I met someone who cares and supports and informs me and open-heartedly chats with me about the daily hassles I struggle with as I adjust to life here. This has renewed my hope of building a new life.”
The community benefits too
“I want to be part of a community that embraces people from all sorts of backgrounds,” says Cara, who is from a mixed heritage background herself and recently made Manchester her home.
“I feel strongly about how important it is that we as a society work hard to break down borders and barriers, and stop the entire idea that there is an 'us and them'. HostNation offers a simple way for each of us to help that happen. I love the idea that through friendship there is the potential for social and cultural exchange and integration. It can only enrich our society. It’s exciting!”
To find out more about befriending, read some our stories here >
Find our registration form here >
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