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Providing on-going practical support for Ukrainians in your church

By 31st August 2022No Comments

We held our second Ukraine Connect meeting on 11th August for churches to share their experiences of welcoming Ukrainians, and to problem-solve together. Here are some ideas from those that attended: Join us again on Thursday 4th October from 12 noon – 1pm on Zoom to share more ideas. You can register here: welcomechurches.org/events

One-stop shop

Several churches are beginning to combine a number of services at one location and time: English classes, with the Job Centre invited, whilst providing activities for children, and opportunities for hosts and guests to meet with each other. One church described bringing Ukrainians together for an evening, with a 15 minute talk on a topic of interest for the Ukrainians such as: accommodation, jobs, CVs, learning English. They provide a play area for children, make tea and coffee available, and a help service of one-to-ones with church volunteers e.g. with CVs, housing. Speakers have included the MP, someone speaking about education, someone else about benefits. Churches, local councils and other agencies working together is a pattern of good practice replicated in different ways across the UK.

Another church hosts a Sunday lunch for people to connect. They are using regular activities already on e.g. Mums and tots, inviting speakers to address the needs of sponsors and hosts from various agencies to these. Rather than putting on a wide range of events across lots of churches, churches have communicated via WhatsApp and agreed what the basic needs are – often English classes. This has reduced pressure on hosts.

Language and communication

In terms of translators, a number of churches described using Ukrainians themselves who have good English. It’s important that we recognise that many Ukrainians speak Russian as their first language, but have felt the need to speak in Ukrainian because of the political tensions around language. Many of the worst-affected areas in Ukraine are Russian-speaking. Be mindful of the mix of Russian and Ukrainian speakers within a group. Ukrainian speakers can be uncomfortable with Russian speakers, and Russian speakers can be reticent in using their first language.

One creative approach to support Ukrainians to learn English involved speaking with the store manager of the local Tesco, then sending adult Ukrainians to the local store to find and photograph food items, a bit like a food treasure hunt! It’s great to make connections with local businesses, approaching them to ask how they can help/ or support. Another creative approach to learning English is labelling items in the house in both English and Ukrainian/ Russian.

One question was whether anyone knew of a cheap Ukrainian/ English dictionary. There are many printed dictionaries available online, but none of them are cheap! However The world’s best way to learn Ukrainian – Duolingo was mentioned. It includes interactive learning, plus Essential phrases for helping Ukrainian refugees. There are, of course, many other websites and apps available. 

Some Ukrainians have had communication difficulties with their hosts because culturally, they are much more direct than many Brits. Oksana’s video touches on some of these differences. INSIGHTS INTO UKRAINIAN AND UK CULTURE is a really helpful guide to read and share.

Involving Ukrainians in leading activities

As Ukrainians become more established, a number are now part of the volunteering and organisation of groups. Those who are proficient English speakers liaise with new Ukrainian arrivals to help them make initial connections, including using a Ukrainian language WhatsApp group. One church described a planned civic event for Ukraine Independence Day on 24th August, with a church service on 28th August being led and facilitated by Ukrainians. It’s good to consider how we can fully involve Ukrainians in the fabric of our church and community life.

Prayer and spirituality

One church described its work to address the spiritual need of those attending their language cafe. A notebook was made available for participants to write prayers if they wished – in Ukrainian/ English/ Russian. Time is given to sitting quietly and praying together. Those who wish to pray the Lord’s Prayer in English and Ukrainian at each meeting. What was initially a very structured/ liturgical meeting is moving towards being more spontaneous. There is no expectation that those attending the cafe need to participate, but it has given an opportunity for Ukrainians to reflect and pray, which many have taken up. 

Hosting challenges and support

Some churches reported that the honeymoon phase of hosting is over, and some more challenging conversations are needed to establish positive relationships whilst sharing spaces in a home. NACCOM has provided some excellent resources to help set things up well at the start to make these conversations easier or even not needed at all – see UPDATED: NACCOM launches hosting ‘good practice’ guidance.

Hosts need our support, especially those outside church communities who really miss out! Some hosts are reporting reluctance to take holidays or make plans for guests to visit. We need to find ways to encourage hosts to take a holiday. This could be, for example, non-hosts taking guests shopping, supporting with appointments or offering hospitality. One church described setting up a befriender family system – matching up a non-hosting family with a hosting family to co-support e.g. for lifts, social activities, and also respite accommodation.

Employment

Many younger Ukrainians now in the UK were about to finish degrees and starting to look for work; or were just at the start of a new job. As they try to find work placements, English is the main barrier, as well as cultural differences in writing applications and CVs. One church describes facilitating a professional English course with accreditation to enable these young adults to enter work in the field they have studied. A real prayer request for many churches is to encourage TEFL trained people to step forward. Those who have applied for jobs, but were unsuccessful, or didn’t do well at an interview because English was a barrier, can become despondent, even depressed. We discussed the possibility of using professionals within congregations to coach in areas such as interview skills.

Ecctis is a body that verifies overseas qualifications, which may help Ukrainians to get these recognised as they apply for jobs in the UK. Sometimes, a ‘needs must’ job is a helpful first step on the ladder, but short-term employment of over 16 hours per week can result in additional work when the contract ends: Universal Credit and Housing Benefit would need to be applied for again. 

6 months coming to an end

Hosts have agreed in principle to host for 6 months. Arrangements are now coming to an end, so the need for jobs, good English skills, and community integration are pretty urgent. Ukrainians will potentially be on their own in just a few months. Sanctuary Foundation reports that 53% of hosts surveyed do plan to terminate arrangements at 6 months.

Welcome Churches is speaking with Councils across the UK with regards the end of hosting. Councils are trying to put together lists of emergency hosts, and Welcome Churches is working with churches to put together a list of emergency hosts. Councils can then pre-check volunteers, so in some cases, there would be an immediate solution to emergency hosting.

Would you like to hear more from other churches on the Welcome Network who are supporting Ukrainians, or would like to share about how your church has been involved with supporting newly arrived Ukrainians? Join our next Ukraine Welcome Connect meeting on Thursday 4th October, from 12 noon to 1 pm on Zoom. Register here for free

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