CLARE & WASEEM
This is the story of a Manchester friendship that changed a life. Last May we introduced Clare to Waseem. The pink-haired charity worker and the Libyan refugee hit it off straightaway.
The difference in their ages, backgrounds, nationalities – none of that mattered. They found they loved each other’s company.
“Clare is one of the nicest people I have ever met. She feels like part of my family!” Waseem
Clare feels the same. “Definitely friends forever I hope,” she says. Waseem was struggling to recover from past trauma when he was referred to us. His life had been at risk back home in Libya, and so he was forced to flee. He set out on the long harrowing journey to the UK, endangering his life again at every turn – travelling in unsafe boats, finding his way over mountains on foot, sleeping rough for months.
It’s not surprising that he was in a difficult place when he first met Clare. “I had no desire to do anything, everything was dark in front of me," he recalls. Getting to the UK, of course, did not solve all his problems. He spent two years stuck in the asylum system waiting to be granted his refugee status, alone in Manchester, still troubled by the memories of what he had endured. He truly needed a good friend.
Waseem was referred to our local hub, where the team identified Clare as a potential befriender for him. She had found us through Manchester Community Central website while looking for volunteering opportunities, and liked the idea of meeting someone new and having an excuse to explore the city and visit galleries with them.
Soon the new friends were meeting weekly to look around the city, eat together, visit Crosby Beach (see right) or the countryside. Clare has introduced Waseem to her whole family, he has been on holiday with them and they spent last Christmas together.
"He is fitting in really well with my friends," says Clare. "He puts up with all our outrageous conversations!”
Having a local friend who simply enjoyed being with him helped Waseem to turn things around. “He's grown in confidence,” observes Clare. “When we met him, he looked tortured, but now his face is lit up.”
As so often happens in our experience at HostNation, both sides benefit from the friendship. Befrienders frequently tell us that they are gaining just as much from the experience as their refugee friend.
“It’s just been so easy and life-enriching. We have brilliant conversations. He’s friendly with my husband now, which is great. So he has a blokey friend too, they watch the footie together and have a right laugh. I introduced him to my dad, so everyone is involved. We count him as a member of the family.” Clare
Taking Waseem around the city and its environs has given Clare a new way of seeing her home town. “You see the world through different eyes,” Clare explains. “We went over to Buxton and watching him seeing the countryside was so great, he was just amazed by the hills."
For his part, Waseem can’t say enough good things to us about Clare and her family and the positive impact of meeting them.
“She made a huge change in my life. I don’t know what I would do without her. She helped make me happy and confident and more motivated to move on. I will never forget your kindness in introducing us.” Waseem
As he says to Clare, she has given him a fresh start. "After I met you, my life changed to much better. You saved my life."