Volunteer opportunity description

HostNation believes every refugee deserves a friend and that London is a much friendlier place with a Londoner beside you.  

We are particularly keen to attract befrienders living in zones 3-6 and more male befrienders.

London is one of the greatest and most potentially inclusive places on earth, but it has become two cities. For refugees and asylum seekers, it can be intimidating, lonely and isolating. HostNation wants to make London better by helping to open up this amazing city to all. It works with established refugee charities to match refugees with volunteer befrienders in their area, to meet, chat and explore the city. Founded by Kentish Towner Anneke Elwes, whose life was transformed by befriending Abu from Sudan, it offers scope for the many Londoners who want to make a difference to do so on a personal level. 

We have 300 London befrienders registered on our site which shows that plenty of Londoners share our mission. We’ve made 180 matches so far and counting – including football-crazy young men from Africa, devout Christians from the DRC, post-graduate students from Sudan, young single mothers, a chef from the Ukraine, a keen cyclist from the Congo, Sri Lankans passionate about South Asian food, an Afghan doctor, resettled Syrian refugees and a painter from China – and many firm friendships are emerging from these encounters. 



You need to be a Londoner.

The main requirement is that you genuinely wish to welcome refugees to London and show them a more positive side to the city.

You need to be kind, empathetic, patient, interested in other people and different cultures and passionate about London.  You need to  be living in London for at least the next 12 months.

You do not need to be British but you need to be a fluent English speaker as many refugees hope to practise their English with their befriender.  

You are more likely to be matched sooner if you are male (we have a shortage of male befrienders) and/or if you live further out (zones 3-6).

You do not need to have a DBS (criminal record check) in order to register.  If you have an up to date one we will ask you to upload it.  If one is needed to introduce you to a particular individual, HostNation will arrange for a check to be done.


The commitment is one of time - time spent together discovering what London has to offer once or twice a fortnight for at least 3 months (can be after work or at weekends).  We match on the basis of geography, age, gender and interests.

It is up to you and the asylum seeker/refugee you are introduced to to decide what you do and when you do it.  It could be having a coffee together, a walk in the park, visiting London's sites, exploring a new part of the city together, cycling, running, visiting museums art galleries, going to a music gig, visiting the local market, going on a boat trip, attending a football match, watching a movie together, cooking....

Commitment, Expenses, Support

We ask for a commitment to meet up 6-10 times over 3 months.  After that it is up to you whether you keep in contact or drift apart.

We do not reimburse expenses and suggest that befrienders try to introduce their friend to the many activities in London that are free. However refugees often have no money or live on £5 a day so we ask befrienders to cover the cost of any expenses incurred in their time together ie. treat them to a coffee, top up their oyster card etc. Small acts of generosity can go a long way to make someone feel welcome in an expensive city like London.

We provide limited support.  We signpost organisations that support refugees across London, the team and referral organisation are available if an issue needs to be addressed and all befrienders are invited to join a closed FaceBook group that provides ideas, support and lists events and opportunities.


Benefits go both ways.  Refugees and asylum seekers have found it a lifeline, one said it made her 'feel human again'.  Befrienders have found it hugely interesting, have met inspiring people they would otherwise never have met, have described it as deeply rewarding and great fun!

To volunteer:

First register your interest through the Team London website by applying. We will then contact you and ask you to register online at https://www.hostnation.org.uk/befriend, where you will need to provide personal and contact information, upload photo ID, provide 2 references and a recent photo.  We also ask you to read the Befriending Guide and info on safeguarding and data protection (all on the website).  




Our volunteer needs

We need volunteers who are free at these times


About the organisation


Anneke Elwes
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