"My name is Anneke and earlier this year I founded HostNation because I believe in the power of friendship to transform lives. Befriending is not a new idea but it's a simple one, and I want to deliver it in a new way. I want to use technology and the sort of software used by online dating sites to help deliver it to those, who I believe, need it the most – asylum seekers, refugees, undocumented migrants in our cities. People not defined so much by their immigration status, but by social isolation and loneliness they experience. People who feel marginalised and unwelcome and live on the fringes of our cities. Few ever meet British people informally - someone who treats them as an equal and a friend – few have ever been invited into a British home. Yet when they are it’s transformative.
I’ve witnessed this at first hand. I’ve been volunteering in the refugee sector for many years – as a befriender to unaccompanied minors I was matched with Abu 6 years ago and he's still part of my family and calls me his UK Mum. I also run a holiday scheme for Freedom from Torture where 100 clients from across the UK are referred to our wonderful hosts families and benefit hugely from their hospitality and on-going friendship.
It seems to me that opportunities to meet socially are too few. Its really hard if you’re a migrant, new to this country to make an English friend. And its pretty hard too if you’re a citizen with goodwill towards migrants. Through City of Sanctuary and Citizens UK I’ve met so many wonderful people who want to help and connect but don't know how. I want this to be easier because being a friend or a companion isn’t that hard. We’re social creatures and hardwired to listen, talk, share stories, laugh, drink tea and be hospitable.
HostNation is an online introductory web referral and registration process that can match-make 100s of people needing friendship with those offering it and introduce them to one another face to face in their local communities. We’ve had the idea and we’ve hit the ground running. With volunteers working pro bono we’ve launched the website, we’re registering and screening befrienders online and we’re building a robust volunteer database. We have over 125 befrienders in Greater London alone.
We believe this is too important to get wrong and are raising funds to pilot the scheme in London this year. With your help we could start connecting lonely refugees to friendly, welcoming residents within a month and start making a real difference to lives in our capital."
Learn more about this great campaign here: