HostNation is a service that connects local residents with asylum seekers and refugees living in Teesside who want to see and do more in the area. We call our volunteer befrienders local hosts. Befriending can start off online with a call once a week to chat, get to know one another and to practise your English. When you both feel ready, you can plan to meet and visit new places together. For example exploring the local parks, markets, museums, countryside and coastline and discovering ways to participate in local life cheaply or for free.

HostNation was founded in 2017 to offer friendship and social opportunities to asylum seekers and refugees. We wanted to give refugees – who are often very isolated – a way into our society through the kindness of local residents. Find out more at


A befriender's description of HostNation's befriending project: "The story I want to tell is of a friendship, how it came to be and what a wonderful thing it is. Two years ago I first heard about HostNation from a friend’s social media post. Intrigued by what they were doing, I began following them on Facebook and soon afterwards I applied to become a befriender. Having volunteered with other organisations supporting refugees, I was aware of the many barriers faced by those arriving in the UK and seeking to rebuild their lives here.I really liked the HostNation focus on supporting people to build a social network and have some fun whilst getting to know their new city. These are things often overlooked but so incredibly important for feeling at home in an unfamiliar place. I enjoy meeting new people, making friends and exploring London myself in my spare time – so it sounded like the perfect opportunity.My HostNation friend turned out to be a young woman I will call Bahar (she has asked us not to use her photo or real name, ed.). She is in her twenties, trying to find her way in the world, and establish her career – just like so many of my other friends. She is brave, ambitious, and incredibly strong. She also loves good coffee and enjoys a long discussion about the world. But Bahar is also unlike the rest of my friends, because she came to UK as a refugee. Three years ago she fled here, leaving her life as a newly qualified doctor to claim asylum in a country where she had no family or friends. But that is her story, it is not mine to tell. Mine is the story of our friendship. Since meeting, we have visited so many places. A highlight for me was our visit to a local mosque where Bahar taught me all about the customs and symbolism of her religion. I do hope I’ve been able to offer some support and encouragement to Bahar since we first met, for example in proof-reading her academic applications. I’ve also helped her navigate some of the quirks of life in Britain – we had a good giggle over the fact that the big building with Mecca written across the top was actually a bingo hall rather than an Islamic community centre! But usually we just meet up for coffee, go for walks, and we even managed a socially-distanced bike ride. Mainly, we just enjoy hanging out (although admittedly usually a little later than planned due to our shared approach to time keeping!) In spending this time together we have learnt so much about one another and about the world – sharing across cultures, exchanging tales and ideas on all sorts of things. We often have lengthy discussions about politics, putting the world to rights and discussing the situation both here and in her home country. We have swapped funny stories, like comparing our favourite napping spots as students – mine usually somewhere in the Student Union, hers in the back of the mosque! We have talked about our families, our friends, the places we have travelled... We have shared so much, in conversation and in time. Through all of this I have gained a close friend. Having worked with and volunteered with a variety of organisations, what has struck me most about HostNation is their hands-off approach. While they of course have checks and safeguards in place, they then introduce you to each other and leave you to it, allowing a genuine connection to be formed that is relaxed and authentic."

Connecting people through friendship, extending a hand of welcome, helping to overcome isolation
Starting in London, HostNation has matched more than 350 asylum seekers/refugees with local befrienders

Interest in helping others to feel that they belong and that the UK is a welcoming nation


HostNation is unique in the simplicity of its befriending scheme. Once the befriender has signed up, conversations take place, references are taken up, but then it is left to the befriender and the refugee friend to work out how often to meet, where and what they would like to do. HostNation checks in and is always there to support.


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Our Opportunities

HostNation befriending scheme
Min. 12 Weeks Minimum weeks
HostNation befriending scheme
Mental Health, Young People, Refugees

This is an opportunity to make a new friend in the refugee/asylum seeker community. HostNation is a new scheme on the North East bringing local people and refugees together 1 to 1, to encourage friendship and alleviate loneliness.