“I’m so lucky to have a health befriender” - Refugee Council
November 15, 2013

“I’m so lucky to have a health befriender”

Asylum seekers and refugees face many barriers to accessing healthcare. Our Health Befriending Network aims to deliver a volunteer befriending scheme for refugees and asylum seekers to help them understand and access the care they’re entitled to.

Oluremi is a blind asylum seeker who is befriended by our volunteers. This is his story.

My name is Oluremi. I am an asylum seeker, and I am blind. When I applied for asylum I did not know what I was entitled to. I came to the Refugee Council and they helped me to apply for support and are now trying to find me a suitable accommodation. 

I have lots of health issues but I did not know how to get access to health and social care services. Every time I attempted to register with a GP I failed. They kept asking me for my passport and utility bills that I did not have.

Luckily my adviser referred me to the Refugee Council’s Health Befriending Project.  After a day I received a call form the Health Befriending Coordinator and made me an appointment to meet with her and a Befriender.

I am so lucky to have a Befriender. My first Befriender was Marcello. He was very kind and registered me with the GP. He also helped me to register with the Royal London Society for Blind People and took me to Hackney Council to get my walking stick.

Marcello accompanied me to my hospital appointments and reads the letters I receive from the hospital or the UKBA for me. He also accompanied me to the Home Office for my interview. I could have failed to attend my interview if he hadn’t gone with me.

Marcello then got a full time job, and now I’m befriended by Valerie.

Valerie is always ready to help me. Valerie takes me out for a walk by the river and once she took me to a lunchtime concert where I could listen to people playing the piano and violin.

She also helped me to get hold of a saxophone, and takes me to the music lessons I have in braille at the RNIB. Last month Valerie encouraged me to play in a park in the sunshine and children came up and asked if I would play for them. They wanted to know if my saxophone was made of solid gold!

I would like to thank Health Befriending Project for their support. I hope they keep up their good work.