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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

Archant

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.

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