A PRIEST in Stoke-on-Trent has spoken of feeling “blessed” by the Ukrainian family he is hosting, while, across the country, charities and councils appeal for more sponsors to step forward.
One charity helping Ukrainians to build lives in the UK, Opora, has reported that it has ten times as many Ukrainians seeking refuge as it has residents willing to host them.
Local councils in Lincolnshire and Somerset are also among those asking for more people to come forward; local government and charities continue the work of matching prospective hosts with Ukrainians applying for visas.
More than 200,000 people signed up for the Homes for Ukraine scheme within two weeks of its launch in March (News, 15 March).
The priest who said he was “blessed” to be hosting Ukrainians, the Revd Shaun Morris, Vicar of Hanford, in Lichfield diocese, was put in contact with Tetiana and her two sons by the local council about two months ago.
Mr Morris and his wife had signed up for the Homes for Ukraine scheme at the outset, wishing to make good use of the extra space they had in their vicarage since their children had left home.
It was only two months ago when they heard from the council. They received an email asking if they would consider hosting a family arriving in five days time, after the original sponsor had been forced to withdraw.
“It’s been great,” Mr Morris said on Tuesday. “They’re a really nice family.”
The church community has rallied round, helping the family to get to know the area, Mr Morris said. “Every now and then half a ton of fruit and vegetables arrives at the front door.”
Tetiana is Ukrainian Orthodox, but has taken to attending Mr Morris’s 9 a.m. communion service on a Sunday. Her teenage sons, though, generally prefer a lie-in.
Mr Morris knows of several other priests in the area who are acting as hosts, and the area bishop is organising a barbecue for them all later in the summer. “There’s a cost to it, but there’s a cost to any friendship,” Mr Morris said. “We’ve been hugely blessed by the family. We have no regrets.”
He would encourage those who have capacity to consider putting themselves forward as hosts.
The founder of the Sanctuary Foundation, which promotes refugee welcome and welfare, Dr Krish Kandiah, said on Tuesday that there was “still a need for more hosts”. He encouraged anyone interested to visit the charity’s website, sanctuaryfoundation.org.uk, where they can also access a free training course.
The Sanctuary Foundation is running a webinar for hosts and prospective hosts on Tuesday evening. This will focus on how best to support Ukrainians who would like to move into independent accommodation.