Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Homes for Ukraine Scheme. More than 8 million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their home country due to the war so far, and over 165,000 have been safely resettled in the UK. This is largely due to thousands of households welcoming strangers into their homes, compassionately sharing their place of love, refuge and safety.
The scheme has brought refugees into communities up and down the country, and in many places local churches has been important in the scheme’s success. Churches have been places of encouragement for members to join the scheme, and have supported both hosts and guests alike in practical and spiritual ways. It has been a remarkable opportunity for Christians to generously welcome the stranger and to learn about the human experience of being a refugee.
As the scheme enters its second year, it is no less important. While many have been successfully settled, the conflict continues to displace large numbers of people. To accommodate those who have yet to be welcomed, more households will have to open their homes. Citizen UK have produced a video sharing a compelling call for the need for more hosts which you can watch below.
How could you be part of this? Could you raise the conversation in your church community, explore how you can support those who are able and willing to host, or could you host yourself? Both the Methodist Church and Baptist Union of Great Britain are working with Citizens UK to match hosts with guests, and to provide support along the way. Click here to find out more:
Baptist scheme: https://www.baptist.org.uk/Groups/376005/Ukraine.aspx
As we look to welcome more people, we can also continue to support Ukrainians who are already settled here, and those hosting them. Hospitality is a wonderful thing, but it can be tiring! Pray for, encourage, and support the hosts in your community. It’s essential that we continue to make our churches, schools, and places of work welcoming places to be for all those resettled in the UK, who face enormous challenges and hardship daily.
Finally, it is vital to that government support and funding for the Homes for Ukraine scheme continues to be available and appropriate, to ensure that the scheme is affordable to those involved. This includes councils, who take on the responsibility if an original host can no longer continue taking part in the scheme. Could you get in touch with your local councillors or you MP, to make your support and respect for the scheme known, and stress its continued importance?
We know that welcoming the stranger can be a transformative experience. Below is an account from David, who attends a church in Upper Beeding and has hosted people in his home under the Homes for Ukraine scheme since last summer. Read David’s story to learn more about the experience from the perspective of a host.
A host’s story
I believe that at the heart of the practice of our Christian faith is hospitality. When we heard about the Homes for Ukraine scheme it seemed that this was an opportunity to show this hospitably, we decided to offer accommodation. Given our accommodation situation, we were only able to offer housing to one person.
In July 2022 we were matched with a Ukrainian man, who at that time was in Romania. He arrived with us early in August. He spoke good enough English to facilitate communication without too many misunderstandings.
Although we live in a rural village, it has a history of welcoming refugees. A Ukrainian refugee centre had opened in the village before our guest arrived. On his first full day in the UK, I was able to take him along to meet other Ukrainians and to sign up for English classes. They also provided a laptop to better facilitate his studies.
Our main sources of support have been the refugee centre and the local council. We received good advice to help our guest navigate the opening of a bank account, the obtaining of a National Insurance number, registering for benefits and at the job centre. Last November our guest was offered employment as a ‘festive colleague’ at a supermarket in a nearby town. This has now become a permanent position.
Our guest’s hope is to complete his studies online in Ukraine. He has recently passed two key exams, and to get practical experience working as an electrician in the UK. In preparation for that, the next challenge is passing a UK driving test.
Hospitality is something that is best both given and received. Our guest was missing Ukrainian food. We located an Eastern European grocers around half an hour’s drive away which has enabled him to find ingredients to cook for us. Over the last year we have consumed a lot of Borsch, Olivier salads and other Eastern European dishes. Each time he cooks at least enough food for three of us for three days!
I commend the Homes for Ukraine Scheme. I found registration straight forward and once we were linked with a potential guest everything was handled superbly. We had some information about our potential guest shared with us, he likewise had some information about us. We both thought this might work so we agreed to a Skype call set up by the scheme. We met together, along with an interpreter, for 45 minutes. We had 24 hours to each decide whether or not to proceed. Everything went smoothly and he was with us in one week. Within a few days a small team from the local council came to check that everything was OK for him and for us. He received a cash payment on arrival, and we started receiving monthly ‘thank you’ payments about a month later. All in all everything went as well as it could have done.—David, host in Upper Beeding