The people you support have been displaced from their homes. They’ll be adjusting to a new culture, way of working, and new customs. They may be navigating this alone, with no connection with people other than you and those living in your household at first. Sponsors can provide the support and local expertise to navigate this adjustment but remember to always utilise an empowerment approach to your support.
You are likely to know more about the local area, UK customs and norms than the people you sponsor. With this knowledge comes a potential power imbalance of which you should always be mindful. Guests will rely on what you share with them about life in your neighbourhood.
Successful sponsorship is all about helping those you welcome feel confident and able to navigate life in a new country. This can be achieved through adopting an empowerment approach ;
In practice, using an empowerment approach to help someone navigate a transport system might include;
Helping someone to feel comfortable doing everyday things on their own will help them to feel more integrated. Being integrated is a difficult concept, we will all feel it to different degrees at times and it doesn’t happen overnight.
Integration is firmly based in our own feelings, experience, and ambitions
Some people find it easier to think about how you can help to build someone’s confidence to do something on their own. For example, if you make phone calls on someone’s behalf to book a GP appointment because it’s quicker and you know what you are doing, how would they do this if you weren’t available? What will they do next time they need to book in to see the GP? Working with someone to make the call themselves, with you in the background supporting them doing this for the first time will help them do this without help the second time.
In the time that you host your guest, they’ll be faced with different important decisions, from where to send their children to school to eventually where to live once you can no longer provide them with accommodation.
When asked for advice, always remember the empowerment approach so that your guest is making their own decisions without you doing this for them. This might feel difficult to get to grips with – you might feel that you can do something quicker or have clear ideas about what you would do in a particular situation, but your role here is to listen, inform and empower.
You can avoid influencing someone’s decisions and choices by:
Healthy boundaries are important for our general wellbeing, and when hosting someone in your home or separate property they are more important than ever. However, your motivation to sponsor is likely to have been that you would like to help someone. Many people feel guilty about setting boundaries and find it difficult to say no, but being clear about your boundaries lets other people know what they can expect from you and helps them feel safe and secure.
Boundaries also help to empower people to do things for themselves. Not having strong enough boundaries can result in being taken advantage of, becoming burned out, and making other people dependent on you.
Boundaries are an art not a science. Some boundaries are non-negotiable, for example “do not physically assault me”. Other boundaries require much more nuance and judgement about the context. There are also different types of boundaries:
Everyone has a right to live their lives with dignity and privacy. If you’re sharing your home with someone, you’re likely to encounter personal information. Make sure you check with the people you sponsor how they would like to be introduced, or how they would like to be referred to. Referring to someone as ‘my refugee’ shows a disrespect for their individuality and dignity. They may not want to be referred to as refugees at all. Also, ensure you ask permission before taking photos or sharing photos of your guests. Respect what they decide.
You have a right to privacy too, of course. If your guest asks questions that you do not wish to answer, explain this is the case and move the conversation along.