SCARF Befriending

SCARF Befriending

The SCARF befriending program matches local volunteers with individuals and families from refugee backgrounds. Befrienders provide friendship and tailored support to the person they're matched with, helping them to navigate their way through new and often challenging experiences. It's a two way learning experience for those who befriend a refugee entrant.

Unless you’ve experienced building a new life in an unfamiliar place, it’s hard to imagine the value of a local friend. 

Speaking English, accessing local services, understanding bills, grocery shopping, finding work and getting around are all common challenges for refugee entrants. As locals, befrienders have ‘specialist’ knowledge in these areas, and can use this to provide advice and guidance to their befriending partner.

Importantly, befrienders also provide the immeasurable support that friendship offers. A befriender is a safe person who listens without judgement, is trustworthy and is invested in the wellbeing of their befriending partner. They’re there to share in challenges and triumphs, to be a sounding board, and to enjoy experiences with. This simple support is priceless for people facing the loneliness that settlement in a new country can bring.

Why befriending matters

Combatting Loneliness

Settlement can be a lonely time. Refugee entrants have left friends and family behind, and have to build a social network from scratch. Befrienders reduce risk of loneliness by providing friendship and a connection to the wider community.

Individualised Support

Befrienders provide support that is tailored to the needs of the individual, 'filling in the gaps' that support services can miss. Befrienders can also adapt their support as needs change over time.

Mutual Learning

Why befriend a refugee entrant? Befriending relationships are bi-directional learning experiences where knowledge, skills and culture are shared. This fosters understanding, cultural literacy and ultimately, a more cohesive society.

Bolena's story

Friends April and Bolena who met through the Befriending program at SCARF. Since SCARF’s very inception, the family befriending program has matched volunteers with individuals and families from refugee backgrounds, providing support in the form of friendship, cultural orientation, conversational English practice, engagement with local social and community activities, or assistance with accessing essential and specialist services. 20170317_Interview_BearHuntPhotography-20Befrienders are often the first local Australian friend, and support ‘network’, that refugee entrants can call on. Such friendships foster settlement into the Australian way of life, build bridges, and help new community members navigate their way through so many new and often challenging experiences – such as speaking English, going to school, shopping, finding work and getting around. SCARF regularly receives referrals to this program from caseworkers in settlement support and health agencies, recognising the benefits of the program in promoting dignity, wellbeing and inclusion for former refugees who may otherwise be at risk of isolation or exclusion. Befrienders work with the family ‘where they’re at’, and, with training from SCARF, can provide just the right assistance and support.

“My befriender, April, has helped me for many things. She’s helped me find my unit, she rings me all the time, we hang out. She’s also helped with the language. She’s my friend. That’s really good for me. Every person, like refugee, need someone to say ‘Welcome’”.

Supporting SCARF Befriending

SCARF relies on support from the wider community to deliver our befriending program. There are many ways you can contribute, including volunteering, providing a pro-bono service, holding a fundraiser, or donating to SCARF.