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.
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.…
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.