Milverton, Somerset
13/07/2024

Next steps for Ukrainian guests

Six months have passed since Ukrainian refugees started to arrive in our area; they have established themselves in this new and different society, and in many cases have found jobs and settled their children happily into schools. We are at a point where it is time for many of the hosts and guests to look ahead to the next phase, when the guest families are able to move into independent rented accommodation. The difficulty, of course, is to find affordable places to rent.

At a recent meeting, hosts wondered whether there were possibilities in the holiday rental market – and we are now asking if there are people in the community who have a holiday rental (or indeed any other property) standing empty and who might consider letting it out longer-term to a Ukrainian family? We believe that most of the hosts would be happy to vouch for their guest families.

If anyone is interested or has further ideas to offer, please contact Wivey Welcomes Refugees at wiveywelcomes@gmail.com or if you have questions please ring Lindsey Waddington on 01823 401143 or Julia Hatfield on 01823 401082

Wiveliscombe Welcomes Refugees royal visit

Countess of Wessex speaks to young peopleThe Countess of Wessex visited St Andrew’s Church in Wiveliscombe yesterday, to see the work that has been done by WWR. It was a joyous occasion, the church was set out for a lovely tea party, and over 60 Ukrainian adults and children who are living in the area attended with their hosts and supporters.

We have seven Ukrainian families living in Milverton. The Countess stayed far longer than had been planned, and everyone who met her was charmed by her warmth and concern.

Iryna, spoke movingly saying that they have been welcomed into the community and uniquely been encouraged to form their own Ukrainian community too which is centred on the hub, meeting three times a week in St Andrews Their appreciation and heartfelt thanks was apparent in every word.

It was made clear that being able to meet together after lessons and chat and practice English with volunteers has been a godsend. Worries do not seem so bad when shared over tea and homemade cakes, many baked by Milverton WI. It is clear that what WWR is doing is very special and the Bishop of Taunton, head of Somerset County Council, a senior police officer and Mayor of Taunton were most impressed and saw that this was a model to follow.

Card presented to Countess of WessexLearning English has been key: over 110 lessons have been taught, over 80 of them by Olga from North Street who is seen speaking to the Countess in one of the photos. The card the Countess is holding was made by Nina who is a guest in the Old House. All the Ukrainian children from Milverton were there. In Ecclesia (coached by Olga in pronunciation) sang the Prayer for Ukraine beautifully; there was hardly a dry eye.

 

More matches made for Ukrainian refugees

We now know of 10 hosts matched with refugees, 5 in Milverton, 5 in the Wivey/Ford area comprising 33 refugees in total, 16 adults and 17 children, and at the time of writing a number of other hosts have begun discussions. It is a fast changing situation! There are some accounts of more recently applied for visas arriving quicker than those applied for in the first wave; the range is something like from 1 week to 5 weeks and counting.

If you’re thinking of hosting and you haven’t filled in our form yet – please do so.

The matching process

To date the most successful route has been through the Homes for Ukraine Taunton Hosts Facebook group. If you’re ready to get matched do register with them, you do not have to join Facebook to do so. The team of volunteer administrators there are doing an amazing job. It’s very helpful for them to hear of hosts near each other who can take families or friends who want to be in the same area. 

We’ve recently heard of a successful match made with Opora and some are waiting to hear from Sanctuary Foundation. However a match is made, all hosts need to register with the government.

Ukrainian refugee update

First arrivals

The first refugee family arrived in our area on 10 April. To date we know of 5 hosts matched with refugees, 3 in Wiveliscombe, 1 in Ford and 1 in Milverton, 20 refugees in total, 9 adults and 11 children. The visa process is long-winded and the granting of visas is unpredictable, eg members of the same family receiving them days apart. Persistence is needed!

Host details please!

We know of about 30 other potential hosts in the Wivey area and we now have a form on our website asking for specific details so we can try and help with matching and inform schools etc of the situation. The form is at Wivey welcomes refugees.

The matching process

Our aim has been to help this happen in a coordinated way so that extended families and people from the same area can be near each other. In practice we are still following a number of leads overseas (mainly in Poland) but have not yet been able to find a single reliable partner who can help with this. If you know of anyone who can help please let us know!

To date the most successful route has been through the Homes for Ukraine Taunton Hosts private Facebook group. If you’re keen to get matched quickly we recommend registering with them as well, or let us know if you would like us to pass on requests from them.  

The government are recommending matching through the RESET charity. We are waiting to hear of the first matches made that way. However a match is made, all hosts need to register with the government.

Questions that refugees have

Every family coming over asks about schools, transport and work opportunities. Particularly if you are in a more rural area, please think and ask around how you can help meet these needs (eg school bus routes, sharing lifts, sharing cars, etc).

Supporter details please!

If you can help in any way (lifts, befriending, childcare etc) please fill in the supporters form for this purpose. As we cover quite a wide rural area we are intending to coordinate this in four rough areas:

  • East (Milverton, Fitzhead, Halse, Ash Priors)
  • North (Brompton Ralph, Huish Champflower, Clatworthy, Tolland, Chipstable and Raddington)
  • Central (Wivey, Langley Marsh and Ford)
  • West (Bathealton, Ashbrittle, Greenham, Kittisford, Stawley, Appley and Tracebridge)

Please do forward this update to anyone you know who may be interested. If you receive this from a friend and would like to stay in touch please either complete one of the two forms (hosts or supporters) OR email us direct at wiveywelcomes@gmail.com. Please do not reply to this update.

We will need help moving and storing some beds and kitchen equipment that has been kindly offered for the use of refugees. If you have a van or can help move these some time between 20 and 23 April, please let us know. If you are a potential host and need to equip a kitchen or need extra bedding or a bed, please ask!