Connecting Ukrainian Refugees with UK Hosts
A new service has been set up to connect Ukrainian refugees with potential hosts offering homes and hospitality.
Since the war in Ukraine began, more than four million Ukrainians have become refugees outside their country, needing homes and hospitality. There are large numbers of people offering shelter and a warm welcome in the UK, yet there is one major problem: to become a sponsor for a Ukrainian refugee you need to have a personal contact - and most potential hosts do not have one.
This is where international Christian charities come into their own with their wide networks across Europe. Not only do they know of staff, church members, family and friends who have been displaced, but these large networks are made up of churches and individuals willing to show generosity and hospitality to those in need.
Ukraine Connect was set up by Nay Dawson (Regional Training Co-ordinator IFES Europe), Mark Meynell (Preaching Director for Europe and Caribbean, Langham Partnership), and Michael Prest (Director, UFM Worldwide) in response to growing requests from staff and families from their charities, as well as requests for hospitality and messages from those wanting to welcome Ukrainian refugees into their home.
They have come up with a simple matching service online to connect hosts with those seeking a home: using their wide networks, they are aiming to find hosts and send out the message to refugees that the service is available and working. Connections and matches are being made every day.
A growing volunteer admin team of 14 people have seen more than 65 individuals matched with a host so far. There have been more than 250 contacts that are seeking homes and 140 that have offered homes.
Once the host and those seeking hospitality are matched, they are pointed to the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme or the relevant scheme for their jurisdiction, ensuring that the necessary vetting and safeguarding procedures are in place.
Experience in Bournemouth
Ukraine Connect has been one of the ways that Lansdowne Church in Bournemouth have been able to respond to the crisis in Ukraine.
Senior Minister, Peter Baker, said “For several weeks we have been praying through our response as a church at a humanitarian level and several people had asked me how they could host a Ukrainian family. When Nay Dawson and Ukraine Connect came along, the door seemed to open. Within 48 hours two Lansdowne families had been matched with two Ukrainian families!”
Hosting refugees in this way is such a great witness to show God’s love for us to those who are fleeing the war. But it’s not the only way churches can support – and have been supporting - Ukrainians in need.
“We also hosted a ‘Pray Big for Ukraine’ event, inviting Christians and churches to pray together,” Peter told me. “This in-person and online evening provided a profile for Ukrainian believers through a video message from a secure location in Ukraine, and also from a Ukrainian-Russian family living in the Bournemouth area in person, to hear about their challenges.
“To date, Lansdowne Church has raised more than £6,000 for the work that IFES and OM are doing on the ground, and we have encouraged our children to support a Ukrainian Backpack scheme. The variety of ways in which people have responded has been amazing - it is all enhancing both our mission reach and enlarging our maps.”
There are two ways that Nay, Mark, Michael and their team would value your support with Ukraine Connect: