Hosting is very personal exchange between host and a guest. It’s the flowers handed to a guest who nervously enters a hosting placement or the Eritrean coffee ritual prepared by a guest for a grateful host. It’s the leaving the living room door ajar for a more private guest to feel welcome. It’s a host finding out that they are allergic to cumin when an adventurous cook feels comfortable enough to share their recipes.
January 2021 was certainly an interesting time to assume a role of coordinating these personal encounters under the same (sometimes locked down) roof.
“I also make this appeal to journey together towards an ever wider “we” to all men and women, for the sake of renewing the human family, building together a future of justice and peace, and that no one is left behind.”
Pope Francis, Message for 107th World Day of Migrants and Refugees
The virtual space of matching host and guest
As I got to know the hosts and the guests, I found myself hosted in virtual spaces between the guest and host. Matching meetings would happen over crackling connections, freezing between conversations around morning routines and dietary requirements. Guests would jokingly exaggerate their height, aware that I could only see their shoulders. I called hosts, asking them to count the number of their stairs from their front door to the guests’ bedroom to assess mobility access, never having set foot in the house. Some guests learnt to use zoom for the first time in what was already a nerve-wracking experience of meeting their future roommates. I sneezed on my phone multiple times as I performed multiple demonstrations of lateral flow tests over Whatsapp video call for guests to test themselves on moving day. Guests, hosts, and I would coordinate virtual tea-sipping sessions to ground discussions about the hosting placement.
I was hosted in another virtual space when hosts came together to share their experiences of hosting in one of our quarterly hosting meetings. Hosts swapped tips from everything from how to make a guest feel independent in grocery provision to the call that nudged them to open their homes to our refugee friends.
As matching processes, meetings, and host recruitment resume in person, I am grateful to be able to put a non-pixelated face (and a height) to hosts and guests. Most of all, I humbled by hosting and I have been shown in the virtual spaces created by host and guest as I learn more about the coordination and incubation of hospitality.
At this moment in time, the JRS At Home hosting scheme is in urgent need of hosts. COVID has left more and more asylum seekers without places to stay and some of our long-standing hosts have had to withdraw from the scheme because of their own health concerns.
If you are a home owner in the Greater London area with a spare room and hospitality to share or would like more information about the project, please get in touch with Hannah to learn more: firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7488 7310