“It has given me strength and courage to find a new life,” writes Dave, of the art that is helping him to deal with trauma and isolation. Now on display at the Sharp Gallery in Brixton, Dave’s paintings give him a therapeutic way to address the difficulties of both past and present.
Dave (right, with HostNation's Anthony Berman) has been in the UK for 18 years but has still not been granted refugee status. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this interminable existence in limbo has led to PTSD. He also had to endure a period of homelessness during covid lockdown and believes that it is only his creativity that has helped preserve his sanity.
But now through HostNation, he has found a new friend. Music…
We’re excited to have opened HostNation North East in Newcastle and Gateshead. Together with our partner organisation Investing in People and Culture, we’re recruiting friendly locals who want to make refugees welcome in our cities.
Since Geordies were voted the friendliest people in the UK, that’s a perfect match! Watch our hub manager Harley call on Tynesiders to step up and do what they’re best at – giving people a helping hand.
Meet Harley, the face of HostNation NorthEast
“Volunteering brings a really refreshing opportunity to meet somebody you would never otherwise get to know,” says Harley, the new face of HostNation in Newcastle and Gateshead. “It’s a wonderful chance to hear somebody else’s stories and open your social circle.”
BBC Radio Teesside (@BBCTees)
Tes loves football, cooking, music and history. He has a contagious sense of humour and is very sociable. He has three master’s degrees.
He is also an asylum seeker. Tes – short for Tesfabrhan – arrived in Middlesbrough six months ago. “I escaped the dictatorial regime of my country, Eritrea, in September 2017, shortly after my wedding,” he tells us. “Since then, it has been such a long, demanding journey to get here – to the promised land, to liberty and opportunity.”
You can read Tes’s personal testimonial below.
Far from home and missing his wife desperately, he needed friends. “Adapting to a new social environment when you’re suddenly dropped into an unknown community is pretty hard,” he explains.
We are thrilled that Megan, Nada and Emal have featured in an ITN news programme celebrating the power of friendship to change lives.
Although befriender Megan is from Belfast and her new friend Nada is from Somalia, they clearly have a strong bond. Almost two years ago, Nada fled Somalia in fear of her life. She didn’t know anyone in the UK. When we introduced her to Megan, it made a big difference.
“I can’t imagine if I wouldn’t have Meg,” Nada told 5 News. “She’s a very good person – kind. She has helped me a lot in my life.”
We are thrilled to see some of our HostNation friends featuring in a heartwarming article in The Observer newspaper on the power of befriending.
Hafez who is here from North Africa has been finding settling in difficult and was still feeling very lonely after being here for two years. This summer we introduced him to Sara and Salvatore and things have really changed for him.
As he told reporter Clea Skopeliti of The Observer, “They’ve changed my life in London. They gave me a piece of happiness, to be honest. They gave me some space for fun and kindness.”
That’s the best thing that we at HostNation could ever wish to hear.
Our wonderful HostNation friends Sally and Mimi star in this lovely article for Yours Magazine about what their friendship means to them.
“Mimi inspires me so much,” says befriender Sally. “She just wants to make the most of every moment of life.“ Many thanks to both of them for agreeing to share their inspiring story for this feature all about the power of female friendship.
When Mimi arrived in the UK as an Iranian refugee, she felt lonely and afraid. Then Sally came along and their wonderful friendship changed everything. Having not long fled her birth country of Iran, after being tortured for her work as a writer, Mimi felt afraid of everything and everyone. Her English was patchy, but…
Olivia Petie is a HostNation trustee who started with us as a volunteer befriender. She is a social researcher and evaluator at a global higher education charity
The story I want to tell is of a friendship, how it came to be and what a wonderful thing it is. Two years ago I first heard about HostNation from a friend’s social media post. Intrigued by what they were doing, I began following them on Facebook and soon afterwards I applied to become a befriender. Having volunteered with other organisations supporting refugees, I was aware of the many barriers faced by those arriving in the UK and seeking to rebuild their lives here.
I really liked the HostNation focus on supporting people to build a social network and have some fun whilst getting to know their new city.…
Watch some of our HostNation refugee friends share what home means to them in this short film made for World Refugee Day by the Council of Europe as part of their Intercultural Cities programme.
We all need a friend to make us feel at home.
Nick (London befriender, male, 20s) has done a variety of jobs in the past but now manages a team of 40 volunteers for a cancer support charity. He is a friendly, outgoing man. Ali (Sudanese refugee, male, 20s) arrived in the UK in 2019 and is at college studying maths and English. As well as sharing an interest in meeting and getting to know new people, both Nick and Ali are passionate football supporters.
NICK on ALI:
Couldn’t have gone better. It doesn’t feel like volunteering, it just feels like having a mate. We are quite similar people and there just hasn’t been any awkwardness at all. Ali’s an Arsenal fan like my housemate and so he’s been over to watch football and he’s met some of my other friends as well. It was Ali’s birthday two weeks ago so we celebrated at his favourite restaurant in Wood Green. I feel he has become more confident with his English once he realised that it didn’t matter if he made some mistakes. We’ll definitely continue to be friends.
Rebecca (HostNation befriender) and her refugee friend, Pinar, were interviewed by Nigel Praities in his new podcast series ‘A Friend Indeed’. In an episode called 'friendship that crosses cultures', they talk about what their relationship means to them. Thank you Rebecca and Pinar for being so honest and eloquent! The podcast also features our founder, Anneke, describing the work of HostNation.
A Broken Arms production
Music by Tim Moor and Wataboi at Pixabay.
Renuka (Sri Lankan refugee, 50s) had been in the UK for over 10 years but her refugee experience had sapped her confidence. Despite being shy, she connected straight away with Anna (London befriender, female, 60s), a professional musician whose gentle manner enabled her to feel at ease.
Conducting their relationship online, they shared examples of their creativity: Renuka displaying her craft work and art, Anna playing her music. Anna’s encouragement, friendship and practical support (helping with her English, giving her an old laptop) allowed Renuka to blossom: she took her driving theory test and enrolled on a childcare course, becoming a keen student and active participant in class. Their…
Anthony Berman gives a personal account of HostNation, before and after COVID-19, and the benefits it has brought to refugees and asylum seekers and their befrienders.
The story began for me in early June 2017 when I met up with Anneke Elwes and Rossana Horsley in a Kentish Town pub to discuss Anneke’s plans for HostNation. Twelve years earlier, Rossana and I had been part of the same cohort in a befriending project at the organisation, Freedom from Torture (FfT); we were matched with unaccompanied minors from trouble-torn foreign countries in an attempt to bring some normality to their traumatised lives. Anneke took part in the same programme a couple of years later and then went on to help run a holiday scheme at FfT where around 100 of their asylum-seeking clients spent an annual holiday with a British family. The positive effects for both parties of both befriending and hosting gave her the idea of launching HostNation.
Mary works for a North London charity that supports isolated parents, and is strongly sympathetic to the needs of vulnerable people in the city.
Introduced to Amira a few weeks before lockdown, she showed her neighbourhood shops selling the food she missed, took her to the local library and drove her round the sights of central London she had never seen in her four years here. Knowing she loved gardening, Mary also pointed Amira to a community project she was then able to visit on her own. Their relationship continued to grow during lockdown, with Mary dropping off food for Amira and her son, and the two staying in regular touch on FaceTime or Zoom.
MARY on AMIRA:
Amira is hugely grateful but she is an amazing woman. It’s a weird mixture with befriending – the people you meet can appear extremely vulnerable and potentially over-dependent, but they are probably stronger than all of us.…
John (London befriender, male, 20s) works full-time as an analyst in London but taught maths and English to Afghan refugees while a student and later lived in Beirut getting to know a number of Syrian refugees. John and Amin (Syrian refugee, male, 20s) have a lot in common.
They are almost exactly the same age, passionately interested in sport, especially football and they share a lively intelligence and curiosity about the world. John has been very supportive, meeting Amin every week for several hours to help him with English and reading science articles together in preparation for his university application. It paid off and Amin is now at a top UK University studying engineering.
Sue (London befriender, female, 50s) and Layla (Iranian refugee, female, 60s) hit it off immediately. Sue was really impressed and inspired by Layla.
They live close by. Sue dropped off gifts during lockdown when they couldn’t see each other and called regularly. They missed seeing each other and resumed face-to-face as soon as they could.
SUE on LAYLA:
It’s crazy! The woman is incredible, she is so personable, she knows so many people, I wish I met her 100 years ago, we are such good friends, We see each other as equals, total acceptance, respect and warmth, we have the same outlook on life. She made me a beautiful Iranian meal and I was humbled. I never expected it to be so much fun. It was meant to be.…