Our Community Support Pages - Ukraine to UK
Site run by volunteers in Wiltshire - Сайт, який ведуть волонтери у Вілтширі
Site run by volunteers in Wiltshire - Сайт, який ведуть волонтери у Вілтширі
An update - 7th June 2022
This group was created on March 19th, and in just 11 weeks we have grown to over 1500 members on our Facebook page. We are moving forward. The bulk of matching is complete and, we are deep into settling and sorting out changes lives and life-styles. We are looking ahead to “what next”.
• Phase one - matching and visa applications
• Phase two - arrival and settling into the UK and its systems
• Phase three - What and where next?
A massive "thank you" to just about everyone involved - see here
In the first phase of ten weeks, we introduced dozens of hosts in west and north Wiltshire to guest families from Ukraine, got them talking to each other, and where there was a suitable match under the "Homes for Ukraine" scheme provided an information exchange as we all (including the government!) learn into the system.
Many guests families have now arrived in the area - both through our introductions and others - and there are many happy families, as well as significant challenges for almost everyone involved. Our group has moved on to assist with putting people in touch with regard to matters such as ... Bank; Boredom; Biometrics; Children; Church; Cleaning; Cooking; Culture; Dentist; Diet; Doctor; English and lessons; Friends; Home contact; Hours; Individuals; Isolation; Language; Laundry; Loneliness; Meal times; Motivation, Moves; Keys; Payments / finance; Pets; Phone; Politeness; Possessions; Prices; Pride; Privacy; PTSD; Public Transport; Safeguarding; Schools; Sport; Time Constraints; Tiredness; Translation; Universal Credit; Usefulness / responsibilities; Visas; WiFi ... each of these just a word I have written down but which could be a whole chapter in a book, from both a host and guest viewpoint.
Our group has moved on, then, to be primarily supporting people on this second phase. We do still have a few unmatched hosts on our "books", but they tend to be the rather specialised ones with whom only a very few guest families could match, and we have a number of unmatched guests on our books too - sadly, many of them are larger families where UK rules require three or more rooms, and hosts with three or for spare rooms are rare as hen's teeth. Also sadly, many of the remaining potential guests are in such situations that they are difficult to contact.
So now is the logical time, after helping with the peak load of introductions in March, April and May for us to step back from that role and leave it to web sites like Opora (here) and groups like "UK Accommodation, Help & Sponsorship for Ukrainians" - on Facebook at (here) with over 50,000 members. We have resources on our page and website to help people along in the process and will very much continue to do so - we have massive recent personal experience!
We are now in that second phase - supporting sponsors and families matched through the paperwork process right from working out which visa applications are made and how, through to travel plans, making the journey, initial arrival and settling in with the mountain of new experiences for everyone, and the whole businesses of guests establishing themselves in a new country, home and language, and hosts getting to terms with the fact that this is much more than just putting up friends in a spare room for a few days.
This second phase is very much the focus of our activities now - both assisting our own guests and helping inform others - arranging contacts and meetings, sending URLs and suggestions, being ears to listen. All words easily written but there is so much to these roles!
If the first phase was our major for the last ten week, this second phase is our major for the next ten, and perhaps a little longer. We then look forward to a third phase.
Many wonderful hosts have opened their homes and hearts to guests, doing so to help refugees fleeing from a war and with nowhere else liveable to go. But few of those hosts would see this as a lifetime commitment, and few of the guests will want to remain where they first found decent refuge for ever. Under "Homes for Ukraine", we hosts have promised six month of availability. It sounded like a very long time way back in March, but here we are in June and the six months is up for some as early as September.
We are already seeing some host and guest pairing - with lovely people on both 'sides' - where the match really is not working. "What have I come to?" a guest may wonder; "who have I taken in" may a host think. When you think of it, the matches have some similarities to blind dates and in spite of the best intents of the matchmaker. No doubt there will be lots of lifetime close friendships made, but for the majority this is a passing phase, a rescue, an invigorating and learning experience, but a transient one.
We are already, even as guests continue to arrive, turning our thoughts to the longer term. As they arrive, guests have no plan - they don't know how long they are here for, they don't know where they go next. It might, or might not, be back to Ukraine. It might, or might not, be to their own place in England. It might be to another host. It might even be steered by a new personal relationship, and it might mean that families that came as a unit split as they move on. We have our thought here on this. So much is a definite "don't know" at the moment, but hopefully this piece gives you an idea of where we are, where we are going, and why we are stepping back from matching to move on to new phases and prepare for new upcoming challenges.
A new topic. An appreciation.
A huge Thank You to Stuart Pearce for setting up this group in the first place, tireless effort with so much else going on for him - burning the midnight oil, and rising with the lark - to get the show on the road and help direct it there. To John Firth who has equally tirelessly picked up much of the matching, and additionally has provided meeting space, support and encouragement to the team, sponsors, and hosts. John - if I was wearing a hat I would take it off to you - and to your wife Sharon who has been so heavily involved in backing you up behind the scenes. To Martin, who's enthusiasm for events and having this work out is infectious, to Adrienne and Sara for their work on the facebook group and minutes - the boring backroom stuff which we would flounder without. And finally in this list to my wife Lisa Ellis who has been taking care of the data, the forms, the matching tools - often under the pressure of making the best of limited data that's been available to help Stuart and John make the best possible matches; many is the morning I have woken to find Lisa already up and translating overnight data changes.
A big "thank you" is due to all of our hosts too - for opening your homes and hearts to guests from Ukraine, and giving of your time and in some cases money too to support them through from initial contract to visa, travel, and settling in. An extra thank you for supporting others along the way too.
Companies, voluntary groups, individuals, councils have been and remain amazing in their help too. Further thanks there to everyone involved, often going over and above what we might have wished for even from the most unlikely of people - in spite of the abhorrence of the situation - the war in Ukraine - that brought this about, we are seeing such generosity, caring and compassion in people that it is heartwarming.
And finally ... the people without whom none of this would have come about. The people from Ukraine who have come or are on their way to the UK under this program. We are making such lovely friends, and we thank you for choosing to come here, and for the thanks and appreciation you are showing. We are making wonderful friends along the way; we don't know how or if it will end, but it is enriching and the memories will be fond ones for ever. Phase one, largely complete as we now move on, looking forward, to phases two and three.
(signed) Graham Ellis with my “Homes for Ukraine” hat
Ukraine Support Group - Melksham / Corsham / Lacock & Chippenham
Events and help in west and north Wiltshire
http://ukraine2uk.info ... firstname.lastname@example.org
01225 708225 or 0797 4 925 928 ... 48 Spa Road Melksham SN12 7NY