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Refugee Befriending Charity Gets £10,000 From Comic Relief Funds

A charity that matches asylum seekers with volunteer friends is expanding thanks to a £10,000 grant from the Comic Relief charity.

B.friend, a programme run by Bridges for Communities matches 40 people in Bristol.

Evgeny Picencky, who fled to the UK with a visa from Russia said he found the asylum process “lonely.”

He was matched with a volunteer, Ollie Orwell, and the pair have since become good friends.

Mr Picencky had to leave Russia a month before the country invaded Ukraine.

He was told he would be jailed because of his work as a social activist helping LGBT people in Russia.

“That was a really scary moment having to pack up my whole life and leave my connections in 24 hours and go here to be safe.

“I was independent my whole life and suddenly you become like a child, and you have to depend on others as part of the asylum process,” he said.

Ollie Orwell, a charity volunteer, said he wanted to do something constructive to help asylum seekers.

“I’ve grown up with the privileges of free speech and not having to worry about fleeing my country,” he said.

“It has been so eye-opening to hear this direct experience where beliefs and politics and rights are so different.”

Nic Hope, B.Friend’s project manager said the funding meant the charity could expand, following a difficult period during the Covid-19 pandemic and added: “It’s such a privilege to meet these people, see their resilience, see how they grow and see how our volunteers change as they encounter different cultures.

“We’re a small drop in the ocean, but for people who are a part of it, its a life saver.”

Source : BBC