Meet the Hammersmith team continuing to support Ukrainian refugees

H&F is building links between local communities and Ukrainian refugees with the help of the Hammersmith Quakers.

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A Ukrainian refugee talks to a volunteer at the Quaker Meeting House welcome session

Hammersmith & Fulham is building links between local communities and Ukrainian refugees with the help of the Hammersmith Quakers.

The Hammersmith Quaker Meeting House transforms monthly into an informative open house for those fleeing Russia’s invasion.

Growing in popularity

Long time H&F resident and practicing Quaker Belinda Mitchel-Innes, 69, started the monthly sessions after helping out at the council’s original Ukrainian welcome events.

“The council are really fantastic and I volunteered at their initial welcome sessions,” explained Belinda.

“I could see there was lots of information that the council could give, but the softer stuff, like where to cash vouchers or what to do when a guest had toothache, was advice that could be given by local people.”

Each session runs from mid-afternoon to early evening, meaning Ukrainian families can pop in on the way back from school or after work. The sessions are growing in popularity, with more than 40 attending the March event.

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Victoriia Aoleksienko at the Quaker Meeting House welcome session

Victoriia Aoleksienko, 42, who arrived in April 2022 with her 13-year-old daughter has attended two of the sessions:

“I’m so grateful to the people who organise these sessions. We’re quite alone here. We’re separated from our family and friends but coming to these sessions is really nice because it’s important that we still hear and use our own language. As well as receiving really useful information.”

Officers from H&F’s refugee and housing teams attended each session to provide support and advice for any guest with questions.

Local organisations who have attended past sessions also include the Ukrainian Embassy, Barons Court Theatre, the Co-op, the Lumi Foundation, the Red Cross and the Eastern European Refugee Centre.

Help with English lessons and housing are the biggest attractions, especially for guests on the Ukraine Family Scheme.

“There’s little chance for those guests to practice their English, so we’re always really keen that they come,” said Belinda. “Because they speak Ukrainian at home, they’re some of the most disadvantaged.”

A chance to give back

Alongside council staff, more than 12 volunteers make the sessions possible, including six who bake cakes and make sandwiches each month.

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Volunteers at the Quaker Meeting House welcome session

“We started doing sandwiches after school because we realised the children were hungry,” explained Belinda.

The first session’s volunteers were anyone and everyone that Belinda could find.

“Initially it was Quakers and members of my book groups. We’re all old, we all had the time, and this was the chance to give something back,” she added.

“People can do so much if they don’t walk by. There was a need for someone to do something and that’s what we’re doing. Although it wouldn’t be possible without the use of the Meeting House.”

Can you help?

If you would like to help support a Ukrainian refugee, why not apply to be a Homes for Ukraine sponsor?

Find out more about the scheme through our website, including how to help guests who are looking for a new sponsor in H&F.

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