Befriending and language support

Befriending is our main aim at Refugees Welcome in Richmond (RWinR) once a family arrives in the UK.

Our Volunteer Befrienders each help a specific refugee family settle into the community. Role holders visit families in their homes on a regular basis and build supportive relationships of friendship and trust. Success lies in enabling each family to feel safe, comfortable and secure in the UK and empowering them to progress towards an independent life.

Here is an outline of the Befriender role if you are interested in volunteering with us in this way.

Responsibilities and duties

  • Visit the family in their home regularly, at least once a month. Most visits are 1-2 times a week and last 1-2 hours.
  • Support their efforts to learn English by providing an opportunity to practice English conversation.
  • Offer friendship to reassure them that they are not alone, despite separation from family and friends.
  • Offer positivity and encouragement as they navigate life in an unfamiliar and often alien environment.
  • Suggest how they might access local amenities or services.
  • Position suggestions as the informal advice one would offer to a relative, rather than as ‘expert’ advice.
  • Represent the family in matters requiring fluent English (online, by phone and/or in person) if they request this.
  • Proactively identify and suggest activities or local outings that the family might enjoy.
  • Alert the Team Leader if extra support is required for e.g. language, housing, medical, and/or education issues. 
  • Liaise with the Donations Coordinator if the family need clothing, toys, household equipment, furniture, etc, clarifying to the family that we cannot fund these directly, but we can appeal on Facebook for donations.
  • Show sensitivity to the trauma of war and displacement; listen if the family choose to share their experiences, but do not ask directly.
  • Work according to the our Safeguarding, Risk Assessment and Lone Working Guidance documents.
  • Alert the Safeguarding Officer immediately if concerned about the health/safety of a family member. Volunteers do not attempt to investigate any health/safety concerns by themselves.
  • Record all sessions on a Volunteer Session Record Sheet shared with a Team Leader.
  • Notify the family in advance of any planned visits, to ensure it is convenient for them.

Experience and qualifications

  • Empathy.
  • Respect for refugees as competent individuals able to exercise agency if given the opportunity to do so.
  • Ability to accept and value different cultural attitudes and practices.
  • Self-starter with initiative.
  • Team player.
  • A Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check with no criminal convictions.

Induction as a Befriending Volunteer

Before beginning work with Refugees Welcome in Richmond (RWinR) all new Volunteers take part in a number of induction activities, which include:

Beginning the engagement

The Befriending Team Leader will match Befriending Volunteers to refugee families.

The Team Leader will be present at the first 2-4 meetings with the new refugee family. If considered useful and appropriate, and assessed as safe to do so, Volunteers will support the family as a lone worker, in accordance with our Lone Worker Guidance and Risk Assessments. Volunteers under 18 years old must work in the presence of an RWinR adult Befriending Volunteer. 

At the beginning of the engagement the Befriending Volunteer and Team Leader will communicate with the refugee family to listen and ascertain:

  • How often they would like to have visits.
  • How long visits will last.
  • What sort of support they need.
  • How they would like to communicate, e.g. text, phone, WhatsApp.
  • The extent and limitations of the support given. 
  • An agreement will be made with the family, which may be updated week by week.

Developing the engagement

We understand that the specific needs of refugee families will vary, and volunteers will be able to offer different skills and time commitments. However, we aim to support a family for at least a year should they request it. If possible, we ask our volunteers to deliver at least 6 months of support.  

Throughout the engagement the Volunteer will be supported by the Befriending Team Leader. The Volunteer will notify the Team Leader if lone working and make a shared record each session with the refugee family. 

After the first 6 weeks the Volunteer will ask the refugee family for feedback and ask if they want to continue the support. Volunteers will communicate with the Befriending Team Leader to discuss the progress of the family’s integration and benefits of the support. If changes need to be made these will be discussed with the family then implemented.

The Volunteer will make 3 more reports to the Team Leader about the befriending after 3 months, 6 months, and a year of volunteering. At each stage the Volunteer will ask the family about the impacts of the support they are getting and ask if they would like to change or end it. The Team Leader will also ask Volunteers for their own feedback and any need for support at each of the reporting stages.

If you would like to find out more about our volunteering opportunities, please contact us.

Policies and procedures

Coming soon

  • We will provide some more detail on our support for learning English for speakers of other languages (ESOL).
  • We will also offer advice for refugees specifically, and point to content available in other languages.