Who we are
“Sanctuary Hosting” was born at the Refugees Welcome in Oxford rally in July 2015. In his speech to the crowd, one of our founding members, Wyon Stansfeld, asked: “Who here would be willing to open up your home to a refugee or migrant in need?”
The response was startling. Many people volunteered.
And so our service began.
In 2016, Sanctuary Hosting, along with the British Red Cross and Citizens Advice Reading, won funding from the Big Lottery to provide support to refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants across the Thames Valley.
In 2017, Sanctuary Hosting became a registered UK charity.
In 2018, we expanded our staff team to have a Reading base.
From the beginning of 2023, Sanctuary Hosting formally became part of Asylum Welcome’s family of services.
Over the years, Sanctuary Hosting has worked with over 120 households to provide hosting and has made available over 25,000 nights of accommodation for those most in need.
Sanctuary Hosting is a hosting scheme that provides temporary accommodation for refugees, asylum seekers, and vulnerable migrants at risk of homelessness in the Thames Valley by matching them with volunteer hosts who offer a free bed. This gives guests a chance to tackle the causes of their homelessness.
Our mission is to help those in need ultimately to find options for independent living in order to reclaim their lives and to engage positively with and integrate into their local community.
There have been some changes in resourcing of the team, starting from January 2023 as follows:
- Aiham, Service Assistant, is available between 10 am – 2 pm, Monday to Friday.
- Amal, Service Coordinator for Reading, is available between 9 am – 2 pm, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
- Eden, Service Coordinator for Oxfordshire/Milton Keynes, is available 9 am – 5 pm, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
- Tania, Service Manager, is available 9 am – 5 pm, Monday to Friday.
Aiham Al Aswadi
Aiham is a Yemeni refugee who first came to Asylum Welcome as a client and Sanctuary Hosting as a guest. He started volunteering for Asylum Welcome in the Welcome Centre and then the Youth Service, joining as a member of staff in 2022. Aiham started working Sanctuary Hosting later the same year.
Service Coordinator, Berkshire
Amal has extensive experience working with refugees and asylum seekers and with volunteers. She speaks Arabic and Amharic, is a CELTA-qualified ESOL teacher and is currently studying for a counselling diploma. In addition to coordinating and facilitating hosting placements, Amal is actively engaged in partnership development and volunteer recruitment in order to expand our capacity to help vulnerable people in Reading and across Berkshire.
Eden is a journalist from Eritrea and recently worked with the BBC as a Senior Broadcast Journalist for the Horn of Africa. She was one of the founding members of Sanctuary Hosting in 2015, having spent 13 years supervising community-led services and founding the Women’s Service at Refugee Resource. The UNHCR named Eden “Woman of the Year” at the 2017 ‘Women on the Move Awards’, for her exceptional work to empower refugees and migrant women in the UK. As she speaks Tigrinya and Amharic, she helps the community through translation and Interpreting. She is passionate about her work and the need to help people out of homelessness and destitution and into independent living.
Tania joined the Sanctuary Hosting team last November. She comes from a background of working in advocacy, mainly for Amnesty International in London, as well as for a short period at Freedom from Torture. Tania is a trustee of a local organisation which supports asylum-seekers and refugees in the UK and abroad. Since joining the team, she has been busy with the practical details of Sanctuary Hosting’s merger with Asylum Welcome and reviewing the services in Reading and Oxfordshire.