Latest Updates From Bridges

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

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Telephone befriending, zoom befriending, doorstep befriending, and park or garden befriending have all been in action here at Middle East B.friend over the past few weeks! It’s been wonderful to see how creative our 50+ volunteers have been with adapting to meet needs in new ways and stay in touch with befriending partners and families. We’ve received pictures of Eid packages left on doorsteps by befrienders to say ‘we are thinking of you’, befrienders reading stories over zoom to kids who haven’t been in school and befriending partnerships taking a socially distanced walk together to encourage exercise, fresh air and social support.

For one Syrian family who arrived right at the beginning of lockdown, their befriending partners on zoom are the only local people they have been able to get to know! Despite having very little English, and the befrienders having very little Arabic, they have managed to form a basic friendship which they are looking forward to building on when they can meet together more! A highlight was dropping beautifully wrapped gits to their family for Eid, and seeing them in person for the first time!

In this time we have also developed a new programme called ‘The 5 questions’ which has provided structured English learning support for partnerships which need a bit of practical help to get conversations going over the phone. It has involved asking the same 5 questions each week, and is designed to build on vocabulary, confidence, and getting to know each other. Befrienders have reported that it’s worked well, and been a useful tool for initiating conversations.

Despite the obvious restrictions covid-19 has imposed on us all, it seems that many of the befriending friendships have continued to deepen, with one of the refugees telling us in a recent review “He’s an amazing friend…I won’t let you take him from me if you try!”

Thank you again to all our wonderful volunteers for all the time, creativity and thoughtfulness you put into building friendships! It’s really appreciated.


By Karen Green, Middle East B.friend project manager


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We have the privilege of working with some amazing refugees and asylum seekers through our b.friend project. We often hear about ways in which b.friend partnerships are impacting both the volunteers and the people they are supporting, and from time to time we hear of moments when our volunteers have really gone the extra mile to help make people feel welcome and cared for. 

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