Wednesday, August 24 was Ukraine Independence Day – the date marked 31 years since the country separated from the Soviet Union – and six months since Russia’s invasion.
Although the war has slipped from the front pages of our newspapers – overshadowed by our own domestic woes – the date was an important reminder that the conflict continues, and that ordinary people continue to need our help.
Like many organisations, East Hampshire District Council flew the Ukrainian flag over our HQ at Penns Place and showed our support online.
But colourful displays and warm messages only go so far, of course.
When you have been displaced from your home and have fled before an advancing army, then you need more tangible assistance.
That’s why I am so proud of East Hampshire’s incredible response to the call take Ukrainian refugees into their own homes.
So far 152 Ukrainian families have found a home in East Hampshire.
That’s 315 people who have received the security and solace of a new home thanks to the generosity of East Hampshire residents.
Just as at the outbreak of the coronavirus, when charities were overwhelmed with offers of help, the people of East Hampshire have once again shown their quality.
Families signed up in droves to accept perfect strangers into their homes for six months or more and offer them shelter and compassion at their time of need.
It is humbling to think that so many people are willing to upend their own lives to help others so readily.
Of course, it is a huge responsibility which can weigh heavily.
Ideally we would like guests to be able to stay beyond six months but it is not always possible. Occasionally relations with the home owner will break down, or perhaps the guests pursue opportunities in other parts of the country.
That’s why we are now asking for so-called ‘Foster Homes’. These are households that can take a guest family at short notice for short periods of time.
If a household’s circumstances change suddenly, we need a bank of willing volunteers ready to open their door for a month or so to give a family, and our supporting officers, the time they need to find a more permanent home.
A Foster Host will be a more welcoming alternative to a hotel room or bed and breakfast, and would help keep guests around the areas they have already become familiar with, allowing them to continue with employment, education and maintain contact with friends.
If you cannot commit to a six-month placement, please consider becoming a Foster Home.