photo credit: Marcin Mazur/CBCEW
Friday 24 February marks the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. According to the UNHCR (figures from 15th February) there are 8 million refugees from Ukraine living in other European countries with 161,400 registered in the United Kingdom.
Caritas Westminster has been using its unique position as the official social action organisation of the diocese of Westminster, to help build up networks of support.
Through one of these networks, the Diocesan Refugee Response Network, we have been promoting the hosting of refugees, alongside the Jesuit Refugee Service UK Hosting Scheme, the Cardinal Hume Centre, and the Catholic Children’s Society.
But another connection was made through our Seeds Hub in Wembley, where the charity Unique Community has office space. Unique Community have been supporting Ukrainian Refugees with Coffee mornings, advice and language clubs. Through this connection, Ukrainian families in need of crisis grants have been able to receive support from the St John Southworth Fund. Over £12,000 was awarded to 16 families in 2022.
These grants have helped with basic living items such as winter clothing, shoes, bed linen, school items (e.g. uniforms, stationery), travel cards, and also laptops to support children with their homework and adults for training for better job prospects.
The recipients of these grants recently sent us a video thank you message:
These brief accounts give some idea of the needs that the grants from the St John Southworth Fund have helped to address. Names have been changed.
Dovud arrived in the UK with his wife and his 96 year-old mother in March. Dovud’s mother is unable to walk and they have struggled with the accommodation provided to them. They do not receive any benefits, so the SVP group in their parish have been supporting them. The grant went towards the basics: clothing, shoes, food and toiletries.
Alina arrived in the UK with only her documents, a phone and some clothes. She is using the grant to buy a travelcard, phone costs for three months and clothes. She has been volunteering at the charity Unique Community
Nataliya arrived in the UK with her son after hiding in a basement in Kharkiv for over a month. When they were evacuated, they had only a small backpack with their documents. The grant has gone towards clothes and shoes, including school uniform, and a laptop for her son’s school work as well as other essentials.
Klara, another mother, with two little boys aged 5 and 19 months arrived in the UK under the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme. As well as clothes, uniform and other essentials, Klara has used the money to buy a travelcard so she can take the children to London’s parks and museums, and to buy them toys and a scooter to help them adjust.
Unique Community, the charity supporting most of the grant recipients reported that “These grants made everyone feel much better… The women and their children now have all the necessities for their day-to-day lives.”