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5 January 2023: Supporting Ukrainian guests in our areaUkrainian flag

We started our first meeting of 2023 with two pieces of bad news. Firstly one of our longest-serving members has resigned after over 44 years of membership. Secondly our 1st Vice President has had to step down from that position because of ill health; we all wish him a speedy recovery. Our 2nd Vice President becomes 1st Vice President in his place and another member takes over as 2nd Vice President.

On a more positive note, we were all encouraged by the talk from the Chair of our Foundation & International Committee. It was originally entitled “Supporting Ukrainians refugees in our area” but he changed this to “Ukrainian guests” as they are classed as guests rather than refugees. About 70,000 came to this country sponsored by volunteers who had offered spaces in their homes.

The Chair of our Committee became involved when another member told him about someone she knew who had a Ukrainian mother and daughter living with her. He arranged to meet them. When he discovered that they were attending meetings for Ukrainian guests in a nearby village hall he asked if he could tag along.

At the first meeting he attended there were 30-40 adults, all but one of them women, and about 8 children who were happily playing together. In speaking to them he realised that there was no co-ordinated efforts to meet their needs in what for them was a strange country. He knew the Sai Organisation in the UK was sending food to Ukrainians who had fled to Poland so enlisted both them and our Rotary Club to see what could be done. Following a needs assessment it was agreed that we should concentrate on helping the Ukrainians to settle in this country and find jobs. Our Club obtained a District grant of £2,000 from funds given to the District to help support Ukrainian guests.

Suitable clothes were provided where needed. Some of the women were given clothes suitable for attending job interviews and some of the children were given school uniforms. We also supplied some tablet computers. One woman, a designer, said later that she was able to use her new tablet to prepare sketches to show at an interview.

Efforts were made to discover what skills people had that would help them find jobs. One person turned out to be a barber; there is a shortage of barbers locally.

Our Club organised English language lessons for those who needed them; many of the children had already had English lessons in their Ukrainian schools. Much of the work was done by another member, who devoted a lot of time to preparing the lessons and delivering them. Other Club members helped at the lessons themselves by working with small groups or one-to-one. It is a measure of the success of these sessions that many of the participants later dropped out because whet they had learned had already enabled them to obtain jobs.

Club members agreed that this project really showed “Rotary in Action”. With the benefit of a District Grant we worked together with the Sai Organisation, the volunteers at the village halll and others to achieve good results for people who had fled here because of war in their own country.