A host and her neighbors rally to welcome Fode to his new home in Rome

Categories: Host stories

When Els, a Superhost from Rome, read about the Open Homes program on Airbnb, she was intrigued and decided to sign up. She’s welcomed travelers from all over the world to her home, but knew offering refugees a temporary place to stay while they settle into their new communities would be a special hosting experience. When Refugees Welcome Italia contacted her about hosting Fode, a young man from Mali – who was recently granted the refugees status – she was excited about the opportunity to make a positive impact on someone’s life. The experience ended up being transformative for both of them.

Els has welcomed guests from allover the world.

Els has welcomed guests from allover the world 

Els felt nervous and excited to host Fode. As a Belgian living in Rome, she knew what it was like to start a new life in a strange place, and wanted to pay the Italian hospitality she received forward. With the help of Sara, a case worker from Refugees Welcome Italia, she was prepared with what to expect, and knew Sara would be there for support every step of the way.

Sara from Refugees Welcome joins Fode, Els, and her neighbors for an al fresco dinner 

When Els met Fode, they formed a bond. Fode is the same age as Els’ son, and she felt a “motherly instinct” towards him as he shared his journey with her. Over the course of Fode’s stay, they went from strangers to family. Her neighbors also became part of Fode’s life. Just as they took Els in when she first moved from Belgium, they showed the same hospitality and love for Fode. When Els wasn’t around, Fode often spent time with the upstairs neighbors, sampling Italian dishes and learning more about each other’s culture.

Fode says that living with Els was the happiest he had been since he got to Italy. He was surprised to have all these Italians take care of him, not because they were obligated to – but because they wanted to. Starting a new life is daunting, but someone else’s kindness can make all the difference. This experience created a lasting impact on both Els and Fode’s lives.

Els and Fode prepare a meal with her neighbors

Join a growing community that believes everyone should have a safe place to call home. Sign up: airbnb.com/openhomes.

About Refugees Welcome Italia

Refugees Welcome Italy (RWI) is a non-profit organization founded in December 2015 as part of the international Refugees Welcome network, in order to match refugees with local people (families, couples, singles) who want to host them temporarily.

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