Refugee charity HostNation in appeal for volunteers

PUBLISHED: 09:00 03 April 2018

Anneke Elwes and Abu. Picture: TOBY ELWES

Anneke Elwes and Abu. Picture: TOBY ELWES


A charity helping refugees make friends with British citizens to help them overcome loneliness has launched an urgent appeal for volunteers.

HostNation was set up on April 1 last year to help men and women fleeing persecution in their own countries get to know their new communities, helping to stop them feeling lonely and isolated.

The charity has since initiated 75 friendships between supporters and refugees across the capital including among others a chef from Ukraine, a cyclist from the Congo and an Afghan doctor.

Amir – a 28-year-old refugee from Iran, living in Rush Green, Romford, recently referred to the charity – said: “I’m friendly and sociable and keen to meet new people and start my life here.”

The charity’s founder Anneke Elwes explained the friend-matching service works “a bit like online dating” with participants sharing details about their interests, age and gender with the charity who then match them.

Ms Elwes said: “People find it very rewarding. Meeting people they wouldn’t normally meet enriches their lives. And it gives people a better idea of what it’s like to be an asylum seeker.”

She went on to explain that for many refugees the only British people they meet are in positions of authority so they don’t get to know normal British people.

“It’s often difficult for either side to meet,” she said.

But she said there is an urgent need for volunteers in east London where many refugees are settled. To date the charity has had calls to help more than 30 refugees living in east London – about 40 per cent of its total – and “more coming in all the time”, according to Ms Elwes. But the charity has only two befrienders in the whole of the east end - one in Barking and one in Romford.

“A lot of our volunteers are passionate about where they live and are pleased to show people more of London. They give people a great impression of the city,” Ms Elwes said.

However, a lot of the current volunteers are in central and south London, places refugees in the east can’t afford to get to.

The charity is looking for men and women who can commit to meeting a refugee at least once a fortnight for three months.

“We have a lot of women who volunteer so it would be good to get more men and younger people too,” Ms Elwes said.

To express an interest visit the charity’s website.

Latest Romford News Stories

Yesterday, 15:55

The brutal murder of an 85-year-old great-grandmother bludgeoned to death in her Romford home by a debt-ridden gardener has left a “hole in her family that will never ever be filled”.

Yesterday, 16:54

A former Bomber Command rear gunner who lied about his age so he could join the RAF during the Second World War died in Romford last week.

Yesterday, 15:00

The mother of a three-year-old with a rare genetic condition described a Hornchurch charity that supports youngsters with disabilities and special needs as “their shoulder to cry on”.

Yesterday, 12:25

A Romford handyman has admitted bludgeoning an 85-year-old widow to death with a hammer.

Yesterday, 12:10

Police officers were called to break up a large group of schoolchildren outside Havering Sixth Form College after reports of a fight yesterday (Thursday, November 15).

Yesterday, 11:21

Watch the heart-warming moment a Romford hairdresser who cuts the homeless’ hair for free is given a surprise from the National Lottery for her hard work.

Yesterday, 07:47

December 1 is Small Business Saturday. As part of a series looking at what our independent shopping parades have to offer, reporter Hayley Anderson finds out why you should hit the high street and shop local this Christmas.


From November, The Mercury in Romford begins to celebrate Christmas. The mall has plenty of gift ideas, fun events and activities for everyone

Vauxhall has completed its sport utility vehicle range with the third, and largest, Grandland X. We put the SUV, now available at Tony LeVoi in Romford, to the test.

“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining,” so the saying goes. So if some warm weather is making your conservatory uninhabitable, think about replacing its roof with a flat one and adding a roof lantern instead.

Newsletter Sign Up

Romford Recorder twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read news

Show Job Lists

Education Promo

News from your area


A Romford photographer impressed the judges of a national creative photography competition with a picture of a stunning sunset.

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now