Befriend Project – Summer 2022

by Nic Hope, b.friend Project Manager

When I took the Project Manager role of b.friend in October 2021, the nation was heading out of the pandemic which had deeply affected those with whom the project works. Although some partnerships had managed to meet digitally and occasionally in person, many weren’t able to and this was the hour when b.friend was needed more than ever.

As lockdowns started to ease, we hit the ground running with new referrals coming in every week. We’re delighted to have almost 40 partnerships, each meeting weekly for a couple of hours. Typically people like to get out and explore Bristol and their local neighbourhoods, practice English and, most of all, find that depth of companionship through the asylum process and then life as a refugee which is so desperately needed to combat the anxiety and loneliness of the moment and foster hope.

It’s been such a privilege to introduce people to one another and then watch as the lives of both parties are transformed by the ongoing interaction: from giving someone the confidence to leave the house, to becoming fluent enough in English to be able to go out without worrying about asking for directions if they get lost. Peoples’ mental health has improved significantly and deep friendships have been formed. Volunteers often share how much they’ve enjoyed the opportunity to befriend someone from a different culture and develop a deep understanding and respect for, ‘the other’.

I have loved meeting those referred, always surprised and humbled by their immense resilience and endurance when so many things are set against them, and also those who volunteer. With so many people from so many different backgrounds giving up time each week to welcome and walk alongside someone in need, I have been reminded how brilliant humanity can be, when we open our eyes to see and hearts to know each other.

“Without b.friend, life would be very hard. Now I have a friend I can talk to about everything… Thank you for all the things you do. Keep going and never stop!”

M, an asylum seeker