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Sanctuary Foundation launches course on supporting Ukrainian refugees

10 June 2022

Sanctuary Foundation/YouTube

Dr Krish Kandiah introduces the Sanctuary Foundation

Dr Krish Kandiah introduces the Sanctuary Foundation

FREE training for people welcoming Ukrainian refugees into their homes and communities has been launched by the Sanctuary Foundation, which supports the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

About 65,700 Ukrainians had reached the UK by the end of May, staying through the Homes for Ukraine scheme with sponsor families, or the Ukraine family scheme. But there have been reports of breakdowns in the relationship with sponsors, refugees’ being left homeless when a placement does not work, and the exploitation of women.

Dr Krish Kandiah set up the Sanctuary Foundation in February, to assist potential sponsors, and community groups, businesses, and churches that want to support newly arrived refugees.

The Foundation has now launched a short online course to discuss issues of refugee safety, well-being, and support after trauma.

Dr Kandiah, who has been involved in welcoming Afghan refugees and people moving from Hong Kong, said: “We have seen more than 60,000 mainly women and children welcomed into the UK — some by families who have never had anything to do with refugees before. It is something to celebrate. But, as in any crisis, it can attract the best of humanity and the worst of humanity.

“It is not enough to be well-intentioned — we must also be well-informed when it comes to working with vulnerable people who have escaped war and terror and may well be experiencing post-traumatic stress. We have a duty of care to make sure that we do all we can to provide safe sanctuary for all those arriving in the UK.”

The course offers basic training in safeguarding, trauma awareness, and helping refugees to integrate into the wider community.

It has been put together in six short online sessions, with input from Save the Children, Refugee Education UK, and the safeguarding charity Thirtyone:Eight, as well as people who have experience of being refugees.

Participants are asked to pledge “to protect refugees from harm, to provide safe spaces and to promote the well-being of refugees”.

Tanya Sazanova, a translator, arrived from Sumy, Ukraine, with her 16-year-old daughter Sonya, in April. She is living in a rural area near Reading with a couple. “I like to call them my family now,” she said.

Her parents are still living in Sumy, close to the Russian border and cut off for a month when the invasion first began in February.

“When I left, I had my hairbrush, my passport, and my phone, nothing else. We were escaping. My parents are stubborn and proud Ukrainians who say their home is there and they are not leaving. I speak with them every day.”

She has understanding and supportive hosts, but is aware that others who have fled to the UK have not been so fortunate. She said that it was important to talk as much as possible, early on, to ensure that a relationship could be built, and said that it was “high risk” for both refugee and host.

“I did not expect anything when we arrived. I was grateful for having a roof above our heads. Our hosts, their friends, and other people brought us some clothes, toiletries. We arrived with nothing, and it is really hard to start your life from zero.

“It is not like you move to another country because it was your decision. Our normal lives were stolen, lives where we had families, friends, work, school, where we made some plans, and all that. That is why it is really difficult to say what the arriving Ukrainians need. Sometimes, even a smile could help. It is difficult in all aspects: emotionally and financially.”

Rachel Poulton, who is an experienced refugee host and involved in the Sanctuary course, said: “We can’t take away sadness and pain, we can’t alter what’s happened, but we can be part of building some good bits of a positive future, and that’s just a lovely thing to do.”

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