Holiday hosting - could you welcome a refugee family into your home?

Could you welcome an Afghani couple and their four teenage children into your home (and life) for a week in the summer? Fancy making jam from wild plums in Wiltshire to a recipe your Bosnian visitor remembers from home? How about taking a young Kurdish client to play crazy golf in Hastings?

During the last seven years, 682 adults and 386 children have been on holidays with Freedom from Torture volunteers, thanks to the hospitality of 458 hosts from all over the UK. The magical input comes from these hosts who – in Stornoway, Penzance, Glasgow, Llanfairfechan and anywhere imbetween – open their homes to clients. They are staunch supporters of Freedom from Torture and its work.

A room of one's own

Most Freedom from Torture clients who live in London have never left the city or spent any time in an English home. They usually live in hostels or council flats and have very little money. However, life wasn't always like this. Many clients are well-educated and – before being tortured and forced to flee – had a good standard of living in their home countries.

Groups of friends and family provides them with an opportunity to talk to ordinary people, combating isolation. To be welcomed into a comfortable family home in a small town or village, fed and listened to, or just left to enjoy peace and quiet away from the stress of daily life can be enormously helpful. 

For single clients who live in the UK without a family and share hostel rooms or flats with other asylum seekers, being alone in a safe environment can be a luxury. Many families who stay with holiday hosts do not have many toys or even a pushchair. Children are able to tell their schoolfriends that they, too, are going on holiday – something that would otherwise be an impossible dream. 

How it works

The Holiday Scheme provides supporters with an opportunity to play a more active role in helping torture survivors to integrate in British society. Many holiday hosts have homes in beautiful places, which they want to share. Children may have left home and now parents have the time and space to open up their homes. A core of hosts welcome clients into their homes every year.

'I tried to understand M’s English and she tried to understand my Swahili and when all else failed - we just laughed together.' Holiday host

Clients are matched to hosts according to interests, background and family size. Holiday Host Co-ordinators provide host families with support and information about what to expect and how to plan activities for the stay. The holidays enable clients to become involved in normal, everyday actvities such as shopping, barbecues, attending church fetes and meeting family. Travel costs (including a limited amount of spending money) are met by Freedom from Torture.

Freedom from Torture arranges Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) tests for hosts as part of Freedom from Torture procedures.

The host list is currently closed and Freedom from Torture is enormously grateful for all those who have hosted and continue to host client holidays. If you have a special and welcoming home to offer and would like to be considered to host in the future, please contact Philippa Hislop to be added to the holiday host waiting list. phislop@freedomfromtorture.org

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