How to help Ukrainian refugees in the UK
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How to help Ukrainian refugees in the UK

Panel at Jewish News-organised Hope and Homes for Ukrainian Refugees event stress importance of communities working together to support hosts

With the number of British Jews signing up to host Ukrainian refugees reaching at least 1,500, the founder of a UK charity which matches refugees with willing hosts has stressed the importance of treating the refugees like regular guests.

Sara Nathan, the co-founder of Refugees at Home, was speaking on Wednesday evening at Hope and Homes for Ukrainian Refugees, a Jewish News-organised online forum, where a panel of experts gave practical advice for people interested in hosting those fleeing the Russian invasion.

Speakers included World Jewish Relief president Henry Grunwald and chair Maurice Helfgott, Daniel Hall from the Joint Refugee Action Network and Rachel Griffiths from Citizens UK.

Special guest, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis kicked off the event, addressing the forum despite testing positive for Covid-19 that day.

Referencing last week’s haftorah, Mirvis spoke about how throughout history Jews have been “Baderech” – on the way – as they fled persecution.

He said that therefore, “We as Jews have a responsibility, if we ever come across others who are similarly “Baderech,” we must rush out to strive to do whatever we can to help.

Mirvis added that he has been “exceptionally overwhelmed by the response of individuals, families and communities here in the UK.”

Discussing the need for proper preparation when hosting refugees, Nathan said: “It’s like having anyone else to stay. You have a guest in your house. They stay a little while they become part of the household.

“When they arrive you do what you might do for any guest. You might find some toiletries, you put out towels, maybe some flowers. You give them a warm welcome, a smile, get Google Translate loaded onto your phone, and you’re away.

“When they come you offer a smile and cup of tea and you don’t ask questions about their journey or reason for being here because that’s straight rude, they’re not supposed to pay for their accommodation by entertaining you with the stories about what they’ve gone through.”

Hall said people have to be realistic that hosting families or individuals is not going to be easy. “I think when asking the question is it going to be hard, the answer is yes, it is going to be hard.

“It’s something not to jump into lightly. But this is a time we can stand up. It might be uncomfortable and difficult but if you get a community around you and people who can support you when you are supporting the refugees.

And he added: “These people are so much more than refugees. They are people with hobbies and interests. So really seeing people as people and looking for that holisitic support for them will help them.”

While over 150,000 Brits have signed up for the Homes for Ukraine scheme, including some 1,500 who have supported World Jewish Relief’s campaign, there are many more who would like to help but do not feel they have the capacity to host themselves.

All the panel members stressed the need for communities working together to support hosts.

“I think if you are hesitating that’s absolutely right and fair, because it needs real reflection,” Griffiths, said: “Even if you cant host there is so much more you can do. For example if you say to your neighbour up the road who is hosting a Ukrainian family ‘We’d like to take them out for an afternoon or have the kids round to tea.

 

 

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