Refugee befriending charity helps welcome new arrivals to the North East

Refugee befriending charity, HostNation North East, has helped to welcome refugees to the North East.

Nabiha fled war torn Syria to Iraq and was then relocated to Gateshead by the Home Office in 2018.

Being new to the area, and speaking little English meant it was hard for her to make friends.

HostNation North East matches up refugees and asylum seekers with people living in the area.

Through their digital volunteer’s forum Nabiha met Annie last May. Annie is a retired lecturer from Newcastle. The pair meet up once a week and have committed to do so for three months.

This helps Nabiha learn English, find her way around and feel part of the community.

Annie says: “I have retired from work, and now have time to devote to something worthwhile and I welcome the opportunity to show someone around our lovely city, to chat about common interests, and to offer friendship”

So far, they have visited the Hancock Museum of the North, The Newcastle Fine Art Degree Show and beautiful churches in the city.

On their first meeting, both Annie and Nabiha exchanged gifts.

Annie brought a handwritten postcard welcoming her new friend to Newcastle, and Nabiha bought a necklace from Iraq.

Despite their different backgrounds, stories and life experiences, the two women say they have been getting along really well.

Nabiha says she is glad to have a friend in the North East who can help her feel like a true local.

Host Nation was set up in the North East in October, following success in London. It's already helped match ten pairs of friends but needs more volunteers to enable more matches.

Harley Kuyck-Cohen from Host Nation North East says: “I think what we offer is quite unique. It's a really casual way to help refugees.

“A lot of people, when they hear the word refugee, think about money, think about aid, but the simple thing that we're offering is friendship and to help refugees not feel segregated in society.”