Welcome Fund grant brings Ukrainian refugees together

A grant from our Welcome Fund is enabling dozens of Ukrainian families rebuilding their lives in Wiltshire to be able to meet, talk, share food and exchange useful information at a thriving and supportive weekly event.

The £2,500 grant is helping the Pattern Church in Swindon run The Table, a group for families who have fled the war and are staying with host families in the town. Launched in April by curate Rev Tom Morgan, the event is a response to the number of refugees arriving in the area and a desire to bring them into contact with one another.

The event has proved to be so popular the church ran out of table space, plates and glasses so the Welcome Fund grant has provided enough to seat and feed everyone. Our grant will also support language classes and day trips later this summer.

Commenting on the project Rev Tom Morgan said: “I wanted to do something because I have a passion for this type of thing. We have this building and we have the vision and it has grown very quickly. We are very grateful for the grant because it means we can fit everyone in all at once. Being able to welcome everyone is really important because it’s an opportunity for the Ukrainians to meet, share a meal and talk.”

The church is a member of Swindon Welcomes Ukraine, a group run by an English and Ukrainian committee to help integrate families.

The event has taken over three floors of the church with food provided on the second floor, stalls offering donated clothes and goods from the church’s Growbaby group and Swindon Borough Council, and a donated bike scheme run by Swindon Welcomes Ukraine.

In the basement Swindon Tuition Centre is running free English lessons and the first floor is a social space with food and games, where up to 90 adults and children now congregate each Tuesday evening.

The English classes are already fully subscribed. Rev Tom Morgan explains: “People are really keen to learn English as quickly as possible. There is a disproportionately high number of Russian speakers because most of the people are from Eastern Ukraine, where the war is. There’s a lot of people from Kharkiv, a few from Irpin and some from Odessa. There’s also a lot from Kyiv.”

Sofiia Volovyk left Kharkiv with her mother and sister in April but she has already become chair of Swindon Welcomes Ukraine and has helped relay essential information to her compatriots about schools, health and work opportunities, as well as the other events the groups runs, such as music nights.

Commenting on the initiative she said: “The Table is a vital way of sharing information, especially those who have little English. The families who come here can share their experiences, if one has faced a challenge then they can share that with others.

“It is also very good for the children who find it hard to talk in their language in front of English children so here they can be more relaxed.”

Commenting on the grant Wiltshire Community Foundation Joint Chief Executive Fiona Oliver said: “I am delighted to see the grant is helping bring families together at a time when they are at risk of losing their sense of community and identity. The Pattern Church and Swindon Welcomes Ukraine are doing a fantastic job and what they are providing is not only practical help but real compassion and care.

“We have only been able to support this amazing project because to the generosity of those who have given to our Welcome Fund and I would like to thank everyone who has supported it.”

More information on our Welcome Fund is available here

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