Befriending is at the core of Restore’s work. Befriending is a service provided by trained volunteers to offer support and encouragement to refugees and asylum seekers who have experienced loss and trauma and are attempting to rebuild their lives in Birmingham. We hope that those we work with will be able to say: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” So we start with welcoming strangers and aim to help their integration into wider society.
Restore’s befriending scheme involves the training and matching of volunteers with asylum seekers to provide one-to-one support. In 2017 we received 156 formal referrals of asylum seekers, and made 77 new befriending matches. People supported by Restore are referred by health professionals, refugee support agencies (e.g. Freedom from Torture) and fellow refugees and asylum seekers.
“You can’t always make it better but you can make a difference.” (Restore befriender) We cannot wipe away the fear and pain refugees and those seeking sanctuary experienced in their home countries and rarely can we influence Home Office decisions that will shape their futures. However, we can provide a listening ear; consistent and caring contact; opportunities to develop conversational English skills; and our desire to understand and walk alongside refugees and asylum seekers on their journey in Birmingham.
Asylum seekers and befrienders alike express appreciation of the benefits of the relationship:
“Befrienders are excellent at providing the invisible things like just showing you around, providing company, giving you a feeling of normal life.” (asylum seeker)
“Meeting my befriender has helped me a lot. She has helped me to improve my English. She brings me books to read and takes time to explain to me anything I don’t understand in the books. She listens to me when I have problems and gives me advice.” (asylum seeker)
“What a difficult thing it is being an asylum seeker. Watching how she copes and her spirit is an inspiration to me. Her friendship is one of my daily blessings!” (befriender)
Restore needs more befrienders.
Our next training course for new befrienders will run in January and February 2019, click here for more details: Restore training course – January and February 2019
If you have any questions about befriending please contact Jeremy Thompson, Restore’s Befriending Coordinator on email@example.com
The next training course for befrienders will start in autumn 2018.