HostNation Blog Post
Refugee Week 2022 is all about healing

This Refugee Week explores the theme of ‘Healing’. It is a celebration of community, mutual care and the human ability to recover from painful experiences.

No-one understands this better than those who have been forced to leave home and build new lives from scratch. We have so much to learn from refugees about holding onto hope when everything seems impossible.

HostNation exists to welcome asylum seekers and refugees into our communities by forging  friendships with local people. This makes our cities better, more inclusive, happier places for all of us. Let’s imagine a world where healing replaces harm, and care becomes our shared currency.

HostNation Blog Post
"To have a bike is like having hope again.”

If you’re living on just £5.84 per day like most asylum seekers in the UK, cutting costs is essential. A bike not only gets you to vital appointments for free, it can open up your new city and link you to friends. 

“When you barely have enough money to eat, and you’re trapped in a system that takes away all your agency, the freedom a bicycle offers can change your life completely,” says Syrian film-maker and refugee Hassan Akkad, in a moving and witty video he has made for the Bike Project. 

This charity refurbishes unwanted bikes and donates them to refugees and asylum seekers, including some of our very own HostNation friends.

“I had my first bike when I was three years old,” says Carim (name changed), an asylum seeker from Syria. “It is true that most of my life has been destroyed and it is impossible to bring it back, but to have a bike is like having hope again.”

HostNation Blog Post
"It was one of the highlights of my life.”

A visit to Wembley stadium with a new friend has fulfilled a long-time dream for an isolated asylum seeker.

logoFor Shoaib, a long and traumatic journey to the UK in search of freedom has so far brought him to a run-down barrack block used by the Home Office, then to a cramped room in a Brent Cross hotel full of other asylum seekers. Not quite the new life he had in mind.

“At first I really didn’t like London,” he admits. “It’s so big, and I think it’s very hard to live here when you are all alone. I stayed in the hotel for weeks at a time without going out.” 

Then things changed. Shoaib was referred to us so that we could find him a friend to talk to.

HostNation Blog Post
New: we are live in Manchester!

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.”

HostNation Film
HostNation launches new hub on Tyneside
HostNation NorthEast

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.”

HostNation Case Study
Many mountains and valleys

“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…

HostNation in the Media
The primary school head and the Eritrean Teessider

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.

HostNation in the Media
HostNation friends star on Channel 5 News

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.”  

The warmth of their friendship comes across strongly in this interview by reporter Toby Sadler of 5 News. 

HostNation in the Media
"They gave me a piece of happiness."

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. 

HostNation in the Media
“We’ve learned so much from each other."

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.

Yours Magazine article

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…

HostNation Blog Post
Becoming friends: My experience befriending with HostNation

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

logoThe 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. 

HostNation Film
“Home to me is where you live free from fear.”

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.

HostNation Case Study
We’ll definitely continue to be friends!

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.



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.

HostNation Podcast
Friends Indeed Podcast
Nigel Praities
Uncovering the truth about modern friendships in a crazy world.

pinar+rebeccaRebecca (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.  

Listen Here

Spotify, Apple

A Broken Arms production
Music by Tim Moor and Wataboi at Pixabay.

HostNation Case Study
It feels like a great gift

zoomRenuka (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…

HostNation Blog Post
Loving the Stranger in the Time of Coronavirus: The HostNation Story

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 beginning

logoThe 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.

HostNation Film
"Befriending is an amazing thing to do”
Watch Suzy and Hakim talk about what their friendship means to them
HostNation Film
Helen and Hanifah in conversation
Watch Hanifah telling her befriender, Helen, what a difference befriending has made.
HostNation Case Study
She is an amazing woman

Mary works for a North London charity that supports isolated parents, and is strongly sympathetic to the needs of vulnerable people in the city.

coffeeIntroduced 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.


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.

HostNation Case Study
The big aim is to get him into university

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. 

logoThey 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.

JOHN on…

HostNation Film
Anneke in conversation with Dina
Anneke, founder of HostNation, discussing the value of befriending with one of our Trustees, Dina, who fled Iran as a child.
HostNation Film
"It really makes me happy.”
Watch Sue and Julie discuss the benefits of befriending as they walk on Hampstead Heath
HostNation Case Study
Nothing helps like having a real friend

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 and Layla having a socially distant lockdown coffee outside on a bench


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.

HostNation is a charity. Registered charity number 1180004