We have been supporting Ukrainians in and around Warwickshire since March 2022, by implementing projects which aim to support all aspects of starting a new life in a foreign country.
Homes for Ukraine Host/Guest Matching
Since the beginning of the Homes for Ukraine program in March 2022, Hand in Hand has been matching hosts in and around Warwickshire with Ukrainian families in need. We contacted guests and sponsors to arrange matching interviews; explained how they could communicate; talked them through the visa application process; produced a list of questions for each participant to ask; and arranged for translators to be available.
Homes for Ukraine Admin Support
Visa applications are burdensome and sometimes experience delays. We've supported over 200 individual visa applications, by filling out application forms and liaising with Warwickshire Council, news channels and local MPs to raise issues publicly and through official agencies. Once guests arrived, Hand in Hand supported them and their hosts to complete important paperwork (including work related to the Biometric Residence Permit, BRP, and Universal Credit).
Creating a Community
We set up a message group for Ukrainian guests. The Group provides information about relevant activities (including young children’s activity groups; CV writing and job information groups; changing government policy on issues such as driving and bringing over Ukrainian cars). It also responds to urgent requests – such as a need to drive a guest to a hospital appointment. We also set up a Friday (now Saturday) regular meet up for Ukrainian guests and sponsors. This became the first port of call for many guests arriving in the area to meet other Ukrainians, ask questions and share experiences and a vital part of settling in. Between 200-250 guests have attended these sessions at one point or other.
It quickly became clear that there was an urgent need for English language tuition amongst guests. In the absence of immediate Council provision, Hand in Hand set up a number of volunteer-led English lessons throughout the summer, and was instrumental in the creation of a summer ‘intensive’ course, which was offered to all guests. They reached over 200 participants helping them to fruitfully gain employment as quickly as possible. These lessons are still ongoing at Pound Lane Learning Centre for anyone who arrives and cannot get onto ESOL lessons immediately and also as supplement to Council offerings. We successfully applied to Trinity College London for access funds and were awarded £2000 to fund Ukrainian English teachers for the late summer period.
Food & Clothes Bank
Hand in Hand liaised with staff at the Leamington Community Pantry to support the provision of food for Ukrainian guests, and the subsequent creation of a Clothes Bank. We encouraged guests to volunteer at the food bank to help improve their language and interaction in the community.
Not all relationships and arrangements among hosts and guests work out, and Hand in Hand became a key contact for rematching guests with new sponsors. It not only supports the direct contact with new sponsors, but also advises on the bureaucratic process which lies behind it and liaises with the council regarding the safety/wellbeing checks and financial implications associated with these changes.
As the six-month mark approached, a new challenge arose, as arrangements came to an end and guests needed to find council or private accommodation. Hand in Hand worked proactively with local landlords to set up arrangements whereby Ukrainian guests would not have to provide impossibly hefty deposits or the evidence of six months’ of salary. In addition, it set up a major drive to find new and nearly new furniture for guests trying to set up new homes.
School Places and Young People
There has been a struggle for some hosts / guests to get school places and Hand in Hand liaised with the Warwickshire school admissions service to assist and to try and relocate those guests who have been allocated spaces in schools out of area or in the wrong school year. In addition, Hand in Hand liaised with the Princes Trust and helped three guests who ‘fell through the cracks’ of the system (between school and university age) to engage with the Princes Trust and take part on a 12-week course.
Throughout these processes, Hand in Hand has procured many resources for Ukrainian guests. These include SIM cards, Warwick Castle tickets (for 200 people) and various summer holiday activities for youngsters. With the kind help of Gary Harvey at Cool Breeze Technology Services Ltd we have donated over 30 refurbished laptops to guests (mainly children) to enable them to continue to do some classes back in Ukraine .
Hand in Hand have planned and organised various one-off events. We ran a Children’s Activity Day in August with Harry Potter themed activities and tenpin bowling. A Fun Day also took place in October. We also sourced and organised a Summer week long residential course to learn English in Oxford for 113 teenagrs which helped them to integrate and increase their confidence. And we hosted a Ukrainian Christmas Party on 7 January.