There’s a saying that a stranger is just a friend you don’t know yet.
We have all experienced that feeling of walking into a new place – a new school or college, a new job, a new sports team or art class – and wondering whether we will find people we like and who will like and accept us in return.
Imagine how that feeling must be amplified when you arrive in a new country. You have left your friends and family – the people who knew you growing up, the people who have seen the best and worst of you, the people who get your sense of humour, who know what your favourite food or film is. You arrive somewhere strange, where you don’t speak the language, where everything looks and sounds and smells different from the people to the traffic lights to the music played in shops.
How wonderful then to have people extend their hearts, and even their homes, to you. To come and talk to you and get to know you.
We all need friends. This week, to mark International Day of Friendship, let’s remember those people, asylum seekers and refugees, from Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere, who are more in need of friends than most.
This year’s theme is communication between communities. At VSNS, we have seen first-hand at our recently launched drop-in for Ukrainian families and their hosts what a difference being able to meet people and talk and learn and share with each other, in a community, has made to the people we have supported. There have been tears – lots of them. But there’s also been laughter and conversation and new friendships formed.
Those friendships might not have had the chance to blossom if it wasn’t for the support of Runnymede Borough Council and the Community Foundation for Surrey. We would like to thank them, and all the other organisations in our area supporting much-needed friendships. And thank you too to all the volunteers who befriend and support groups such as ours, so that no one need feel they are alone.