Six hosts and Ukraine families have been matched through mothersisterdaughter in Henley. They are now waiting to hear when their visa applications will be approved so that travel arrangements can be made.
Gemma Birch, founder of mothersisterdaughter said, “It’s great that the first families are being matched after many hours of exchanges of messages and phone calls through Whatsapp. These have come through word of mouth. I have been joining in some of the conversations in the background, helping with technical questions. The families are asking things like can I see my room, where will my children go to school. They are frightened of bringing their children into the unknown and some have never travelled before. Some are considering going back home into the war zone because of the process is taking so long.
Creating a community hub both for hosts and refugees is one of the key things Gemma wants to develop. Gemma explains, “The Council will provide all the black and white stuff, like processing of applications for schools etc but there are a lot of grey areas that the refugees will need help with like getting to work, getting their children to school, language skills, finding a job etc.”
Talking with the refugees, Gemma comments, “They are very motivated to rebuild their lives and not be a financial burden on anyone. They want to get jobs when they get here and get their children in to school because ultimately they just want to get back home.”
People can help in lots of ways not just being a host. Buddy Tribe set up by Gemma is looking for volunteers to build friendships, go for walks, have a coffee with etc. outside of the host family. Gemma said, “This is important so they don’t feel isolated and have someone to do normal things with.”
Gemma is looking to coordinate a programme of well-being sessions which could include walks, yoga, gardening, all to help refugees resettle and rebuild their. She’s looking for help with these too.
Businesses can help too. Do you have a job you could offer? Are you nail bar or a shop that could offer a voucher for a nice welcome treat or a product to put in the welcome pack? Drifters Coffeehouse have agreed to be the first coffee shop to do a Pay it Forward coffee – buy an extra coffee when you order and it will be chalked up on the board to give a free coffee to a Ukrainian coming to live in Henley. Please ask your coffee shop if they could join this scheme in some way? Perhaps those coffee shops that offer a free coffee when completing a card, you could leave your card with the shop to give to a refugee?
David Eggleton is still working with local Ukrainian resident Anastasia Lypynska to get donations through to the right people. You can still donate medical supplies, first aid kits, toiletries, baby wipes, nappies, tinned food at the donation points at the Town Hall and Swiss Farm. Donations will also be added to welcome packs for the families. Anastasia is also working with her cousin’s charity in Ukraine, Starlife Foundation to get defence equipment to the front line. You can donate via this link https://charity.starlife1.com/
To donate or register your interest in becoming a host, a buddy, a volunteer or a business wanting to help go to https://www.mothersisterdaughter.org.uk/ and complete the contact form or shop the different ways you can donate