Could you befriend a refugee or asylum seeker?

Cotteridge Quakers Sarah & Richard Jones invite Friends from across the area to explore becoming a befriender with Restore (a project of Birmingham Churches Together, of which Quakers are a member):

The opportunity to meet refugees and asylum seekers, to understand their situations and to make friends with them may not seem to be an easy thing to arrange – but it is easy to imagine how valuable this support can be to people displaced by war or persecution. For those who volunteer for this very positive social action it can be most enriching and educative; this has certainly been our experience.

Restore is a unique charitable organisation which seeks to welcome and offer friendship to refugees and asylum seekers in our city, principally by linking individuals to befrienders and also by arranging regular group activities and (where appropriate) job-market mentoring.

The input of volunteers is carefully organised to ensure a suitable match (women with women, men with men), and following training and introduction alongside a staff member, the obligation is limited to meeting the refugee once a fortnight, for example an hour’s conversation in a city-centre café. Warm friendships have often developed out of this arrangement (age difference, if there is one, being no barrier), but equally, as the refugees find their feet, it is expected that their need for befriending support will diminish.

What is the impact of befriending? One befriended asylum seeker wrote:

“Restore paired me up with a befriender who actually changed my life. Having someone to talk to, was a big problem to me until I met my befriender who came and took that burden away. She is very kind hearted, is always ready to listen to me and has helped me to regain my self-confidence.”

There is an urgent need to recruit more volunteers (both men and women) to befriend people from various parts of the world seeking safety and a stable life in this country. If you or someone you know might be interested in taking up such an opportunity, please see the Restore website and look at the 5-minute introductory video ‘Who are Restore?’; and/or contact the Befriending Co-ordinator Catherine Bridgwood direct: 0121 661 4275

A sequence of three evening sessions in June (9th, 16th & 23rd at 7.15pm on Zoom) is the next opportunity to understand more about the issues and the role of Restore, and should be booked into before you decide whether to commit to being a volunteer. There is no obligation to follow up on this training if you decide not to do so.