There may not have been any posts since April but that’s not because nothing’s happened, rather the reverse, it’s because so much has happened… We hit the ground running in the Spring and now that it’s summer, we’re all systems go!
We’re really excited to have nearly 150 registered befrienders in Greater London alone. The process of reading what our befrienders have uploaded on the site, receiving glowing references and chatting to them about the befriending role, has been hugely inspiring and increased our faith in humanity. HostNation is attracting wonderful people – committed to social justice, volunteering and humanitarianism – and above all, people who genuinely want to improve the experiences asylum seekers and refugees have, of living here, in the UK. Our befrienders are the people who will make HostNation meaningful and we are beyond grateful to them and to all our supporters for your belief in what we are trying to achieve.
At a practical level it’s also fabulous to see such a good and representative spread of befrienders across Greater London and in many of the outer zones where asylum seekers and refugees tend to be housed. The cost of travel into central London is one of the main causes of social isolation amongst asylum seekers and refugees and we hope to match people living in the same (or neighbouring) boroughs to make it easier (and cheaper) to meet.
Once our befrienders have read the guide, subjected themselves to a call from one of our team to discuss boundaries, issues and availability and we have received photo ID, any DBS checks and their references, they are ready to be matched. As we are piloting the scheme in Greater London this year and most of our befrienders are ready, or nearly ready to go, we plan to open for refugee referrals in the next week or two. We’ve been in conversation with various refugee service providers and support groups in London who have expressed an urgent need for befrienders in the capital, including Freedom from Torture, Refugee Action, British Red Cross, Women for Women Refugees, Xenia, Waging Peace (to mention a few) and are keen to start referring their service users. We hope to match most of our Greater London befrienders over the next few months.
We’ve been fundraising since our last post and are delighted to announce that we have met our crowdfunding targets thanks to our many generous donors and have reason to believe that we have also just been awarded a grant for innovative social start ups. Although HostNation will continue to be run largely by volunteers, restricted funds, along with the legal support we have received from the Freshfields pro bono team and the governance and financial control provided by Prism the Gift Fund, will all help to secure our future and make the idea – digitally-enabled refugee befriending – sustainable.
We have also had some great publicity from Time Out to Thomson Reuters and once we have started matching befrienders and befriendees we hope to have more case histories that will inspire others to reach out to refugees through the simple act of befriending.
Jo Cox was concerned about loneliness before her tragic death last year and the Jo Cox Commission into Loneliness is a cross-party initiative, set up in her memory, to come up with innovative ideas for tackling loneliness amongst key targets. The Commission’s focus in September-October is refugees and asylum seekers and HostNation has been invited to partner with the Commission as a case study and innovative solution. We plan to work alongside Refugee Action to explore the issue of loneliness amongst this target and help them to generate new ideas. Hopefully we’ll be reporting back on progress with both this and matching our befrienders to refugee referrals in our next post….