Eight months on from the start of the war in Ukraine and the Diocesan response to the crisis continues.

Springing into action

Staff at Father Hudson’s Care (FHC) - which is leading the Diocesan response - sprang into action within days of the war being declared. Its paid staff were already stretched with their current responsibilities but determined to be involved due to the nature of the crisis.

Teresa, a volunteer at Father Hudson’s Care, has been involved in supporting the response effort since it began, taking the leading role in the ‘matching’ process during the first three months for the majority of those who have arrived. Having offered to help a couple of days a week this very quickly became five days a week.

By April FHC had partnered with Citizens UK. Without the help of Citizens UK very little progress would have been made - they were able to put FHC in touch with guests from Ukraine and initially provided the interpreting at the matching meetings.

Providing ongoing support

“We had a really big response at the start, and it was so encouraging,” said Teresa. “Positive things happened very quickly.

“We now have a real spread of host families across the Archdiocese and are continuing to work hard to place as many people as possible.

“But within a couple of months it became clear we needed someone who would be able to provide ongoing support to our Ukrainian friends moving forward, and especially to help with language and culture barriers. So a dedicated post was created.”

A parish collection followed in May which raised an impressive £33,429.

This assisted in the recruitment in June of Liudmyla Sadova, a Ukrainian Refugees’ Support Coordinator.

Liudmyla is supporting refugee families, particularly with the complex Visa and matching process. She is also providing ongoing support to families to assist them with accessing help from local councils and statutory agencies, as well as local communities.

The parish collection also helped to establish a crisis fund to support families when they arrive, as well as the provision of online ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) lessons and training sessions for hosts and guests.

Liudmyla, who speaks both Ukrainian and Russian, had moved to the UK before the war started and was living in Birmingham.

When the war broke out she, along with friends, began to meet in the city centre for peaceful gatherings to channel their frustrations and powerlessness.

She was offering interpreter assistance to those in need and her connection to the Ukrainian community grew.

“There was a post in a social media group I’m part of about the job at Father Hudson’s Care,” said Liudmyla. “I thought ‘that’s what I’m doing, I shall apply.’ It was a challenging process but my motivation was I wanted to help people.

“When I started I was involved in matching, now my role is much more focused on support. I have been supporting families (who are not in the UK) trying to navigate the visa process, as well as supporting the families who have now moved here and are integrating into the community.

“I help to bridge the gap between the host families and the Ukrainian families. Helping with the language barrier and helping host families to understand the traumatic experience their guests have gone through.”

Liudmyla hosts regular webinars for both host families and Ukrainian guests and together with other staff at Father Hudson’s is developing workshops centred around safeguarding and self-care, so both families feel safe and comfortable and have a thorough understanding of each other’s culture.

Support with education and accessing help from various organisations also plays a big part.

Although Liudmyla’s contract was initially just for six months, it has already been extended to March 2023, such is the demand for support.

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Latest figures

Latest figures to October 2022 from Father Hudson’s Care reveal 101 individuals or families contacted FHC with offers of support.

90 offered to host Ukrainian guests in their homes (following an appeal which was issued to parishes back in March).

7 offered language support with 4 offering other types of support to the project.

FHC is currently working with 40 active hosts (though a few of these live in rural areas and can be difficult to match because guests from Ukraine are often seeking work and/ or nearby schools).

There are now 31 confirmed matches consisting of 70 Ukrainian guests – 41 adults and 29 children.

Of the 90 original contacts 49 (FHC 31 + 18 elsewhere) are currently hosting guests or expecting guests to arrive soon. Most have arrived.

FHC has received approximately 102 referrals from Citizens UK since April.

Support in schools and parishes

Across the Archdiocese, parishes, schools and communities have all been playing their part in supporting those fleeing from Ukraine.

A number of refugee families are now living in parish presbyteries and numerous fundraisers have taken place over the last eight months.

The Holy Spirit Catholic Multi Academy Company (MAC), which consists of five schools across Warwickshire, is one such example:

Sinead Smith, Senior Executive Principal, said: “We held an appeal to get vital supplies into Ukraine and the surrounding areas. We were absolutely overwhelmed with the response from the local community.

"We had over 70,000 items donated and thankfully we had a small army of volunteers to sort and pack the items. We then teamed up with Fr Michael White and the Tamworth parishes and they organised the transport.

"Within just a few days, the items donated reached the centre of Ukraine. We did also have over £6,000 in cash donations and this was used to buy 150 beds for a new refugee camp on the polish border.”

And the schools of the Painsley Catholic Academy in North Staffordshire collectively raised £16,500 for CAFOD’s Ukrainian Humanitarian Appeal through a variety of fundraisers.

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