New Country Guides for hosts

Last year we circulated a survey to all of our current and past hosts, to see what we could do better and how we could improve our service, leading to better outcomes for everyone that we work with.

One theme that emerged was that hosts would like to know more about their guests prior to move-in.

It’s a delicate line to walk- hosts are largely motivated to create the best environment for their guests, and it is understandable that they are keen for information about their guests. But we know that they also understand the importance of maintaining the guests dignity and privacy.

The wonderful thing about hosting is that invariably- in the course of the hosting period- a rapport and a trust is often established, that means a natural flow of conversation can occur, but of course- it is important that the guests has control over his or her own story.

In response to this- we have created some short guides to four of the countries that many of our guests come from. We hope these may be useful to at least establish some context for hosts and anyone else who wants to learn about these countries.

Please feel free to download them and use if they are useful to you.


Disclaimer: They are a very short overview of countries with rich, diverse, culture, people and politics and are by no means absolute.
The guides were researched and produced in good faith by Sanctuary Hosting. We welcome any amendments and corrections! If you have any, please email


The Guides

Short guide_ Albania

Short guide_ Afghanistan

Short guide_ Eritrea

Short guide_ The Gambia





Christmas shopping that helps refugees

I admit that I am not immune to the sudden panic that comes with December the first. I’m only human. Luckily my family and friends are fairly tuned into a ‘pared down’ Christmas, and happy with a book, or something pre-loved and passed on, so the pressure is in my head, not theirs.  More and more though, retailers- and charities- are cottoning on to the fact that if people can spend money, contribute less to landfill and feel good about themselves- it’s a win-win situation.

Read on for a few ways you could help refugees when you go shopping this year:

1)Buy gifts for Refugees in need-  Choose Love
Choose Love says it’s the first shop where you can buy real gifts for refugees. You can buy a ‘hot meal’ for £5, a tent for £30, and lots of other essential items, including the whole store for £650. The items make their way to refugees in need across the world.  And a bit like Oxfam’s goat poo –if you’re buying it as a gift, you can send the recipient a card to show what you ‘bought’ them. Choose Love say they’ve funded more than 1.5 million items for refugees since 2017.


2) Learn to cook with Migrateful cookery classes
Migrateful is an organisation that connects people through the love of food. Migrant chefs run cookery classes, that not only share the secrets of delicious regional cooking, but are also a perfect environment for migrants and non-migrants to meet, learn something new, integrate and enjoy food. It’s also a way for the chefs to move towards employment and build their confidence.
You can buy gift vouchers for their cookery classes in London, Kent and Bristol, or organise a team one for a Christmas celebration for your organisation! That’s my sister and her husband sorted. (I hope they don’t read this…and invite me round to theirs soon)


3) Show your campaigning colours with a purchase from Right to Remain
Right to Remain is a campaigning organisation, that helps people understand the immigration process with resources and training, and access their rights with dignity and humanity. You can buy hoodies and t-shirts- with the iconic ‘No one is Illegal’ slogan from their shop, as well as bags and other resources for migrants, such as their excellent toolkit.


4) Donate the cost of Christmas cards
If you want to save the planet, and help refugees who are at risk of being homeless in the UK- you can send e-cards instead, and donate the cost of cards and postage to the charity Refugees at Home, who like us, host destitute migrants in generous peoples spare rooms.


5) Buy someone a bike!
This wonderful project in the UK takes old, unwanted donated bikes, spruces them up and gives them to refugees and asylum seekers to get around their new communities. You can also buy secondhand refurbished bikes from them, and the money goes straight back into the project.


5) Donate to us at Sanctuary Hosting!

Ok so this is donating, not shopping! But, a donation will help us to offer someone a safe place to sleep at a crucial time in their life. They will be offered Sanctuary: a proper bed to sleep on, and a door they can close for some peace and privacy.  This won’t solve all their problems, but it will give them some breathing space while they tackle their most pressing issues.

We have calculated that each person costs us about £10 a night to accommodate and on top of that we provide a small allowance to most of our guests to buy food, toiletries and maybe a bus pass. Quite a Christmas gift! We believe this represents excellent value for money, and we thank you for helping us to provide sanctuary to those who really need it in this way.

A day in the life of a Service Coordinator

You may already know that we help people to host those seeking sanctuary in the Thames Valley who are at very real risk of homelessness. But what does a day ‘on the job’ involve for Elaine Savage, our Service Coordinator?

Here Elaine describes a few of the things that can crop up, and why she feels moved by what she sees on a daily basis: 

One of the things I absolutely love about this job is that there is no two days the same!  I also love that it is not a desk job that is distant and far removed from the people you are set out to make a difference for. Every day I meet some of the most hospitable, generous and brave-hearted individuals on the planet, combined with some of the most courageous, strong and inspiring people I will ever know.

I often get to meet up with guests throughout their stay. This could involved anything from a catch up, to writing advocacy letters or celebrating a positive asylum decision. This morning, I get to meet a lady for coffee and we reflect over how much has changed since we first met. She shares honestly the daily struggle living in constant uncertainty, fear and destitution but she still dares to dream for the future.  This woman is a fighter and has overcome much, and still has hope! This is one of the reasons I am a believer in hosting. I see the tangible change and impact it has on peoples circumstances and whole demeanour for the better. There is nothing else like it!

The non-glamorous but nevertheless vital part of service coordination awaits; of emails and calls before rushing off to another city to meet a new guest who applied for hosting yesterday.  She is in need of a safe place to stay from tomorrow night. We will meet her first and then introduce her to a couple willing to host in such emergencies. We meet a lady who has been treated inhumanely by those close to her; movements controlled, not allowed out the house, ID taken off her and abused.  Mid-interview we ask ‘do you have any questions for us?’ She (comes out with), ‘Do the hosts get paid or do they do this for free?’ We explain all hosts and supporter workers are volunteers. She (replies incredulously/with surprise); ‘Humanity still exists!’ She is overcome with emotion by the unconditional kindness of strangers.’ We take a few moments before we continue.

After a bus pass is bought and plans made for her arrival the next day we say goodbye. As I drive home after a long, busy and fulfilling day I am grateful for everyone who made this day possible- and hosting these two ladies possible.

Paul finishes his walk

A host walks Hadrian’s Wall in support of Sanctuary Hosting

One of our hosts, Paul Clifford will be starting an 85-mile walk along the length of Hadrian’s wall this Sunday. He has kindly decided to split any sponsorship he makes between us and another charity he supports- Auditory Verbal UK.
In this blog he describes the walk, and what motivates him and his wife to host.
If you would like to support him, you can donate here:

Hadrian’s Wall has been a feature of the English landscape for almost 2,000 years. Much of it is still visible. It runs for 85 miles across England at more or less its narrowest point between the Solway Firth and Newcastle. You can walk its length in 6 days which is what I shall be doing, staying at a variety of b&bs along the way, carrying everything I need on my back. It is perhaps ironic that I shall be following a wall built to keep people out in order to raise money to help keep people in.
My wife and I have been involved with Sanctuary Hosting for the last three years. In that time we have given a short-term home to a number of asylum-seekers and refugees from different parts of the Middle East and Africa. We have been impressed by their courage, tenacity, ingenuity, resilience and genuine desire to make a contribution to British society. They have escaped persecution and civil war and some of the stories they have shared with us of what they had to go through to reach Britain are both jaw-dropping and depressing in what they reveal of the cynicism and incompetence of officialdom across Europe.
They have cooked for us, entertained us with Ethiopian hip-hop and Syrian street music, engaged animatedly in religious and cultural debate, helped on our churchyard-clearing working parties, watched our DVDs (goodness knows what our Somali guest made of Chariots of Fire, but he was polite about it) and even made an effort to seem interested in cricket.
What we have offered them seems infinitesimal given the scale of the challenges they continue to face, but it is one rung in a ladder of support which Sanctuary Hosting and similar organisations provide and which may one day help them to get over the wall that confronts them to find a secure and peaceful future.

A study of hospitality in hosting


We are lucky enough to have had Dr Yasmin Gunaratnam from the Sociology Department of Goldsmiths College in London,  interview fifteen of our volunteers who were hosting guests in 2017/18.

This study is a record of those interviews, with an introductory explanation of the political and social environment of the time, and since.

The focus of the piece is on the motivations for hosting, and what part hospitality plays in that. It is a very insightful read and may be useful for anyone considering hosting themselves.

The research is part of the ongoing Cartographies of Hospitality study, led by Dr Fataneh Farahani (Stockholm University), with research also being carried out in Sweden and Turkey.  We will be sure to post about that when it is completed.

Read the report:
Cartographies of Hospitality