By Bev Haigh-Jones

Welcome to our new “Community Corner”, a section where we hope to showcase and support a community project, or projects, each month. If you are involved with a community group, or just know of one which deserves to be featured, please let us know.

In view of present circumstances, we felt that the obvious choice for our first edition would be to publicise organisations that are helping the Ukrainian refugees.

Standing with Ukraine

Cornwall for Europe stand fully behind the Ukraine, and most especially its refugees, and wish to do all that we can to help. Some of you may have seen our recent post on our Facebook pages, but even if you have, this section provides even more information.

In February, we held a vigil in Truro where, thanks to the amazing generosity of those present, we raised over £1,200 for Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain. We don’t want to stop there, though. There are a great many people in Cornwall who are pulling out all the stops to help refugees. Some are individuals – possibly sponsors helping to bring them here and home them, others are providing support with the UK’s horrendous visa system, or helping to distribute essential goods and offering support once those that are fortunate enough have actually arrived.

A friend of one of the CfE committee has taken the step of sponsoring a Ukrainian family, and has sent us a letter with a great deal of relevant and useful information for anyone considering doing the same, or already involved in the process. This is a section from it:

Thanks for asking about the local contacts and other help and support for the families arriving in Cornwall.

Things seem to be getting organised and we had a visit from a new support co-ordinator from Volunteer Cornwall who has been tasked with finding out and signposting what support there is available.  She is call Kate Ashby and can be contacted via Volunteer Cornwall. 

One really early thing to access might be the offer from Vodaphone to send a sim card with a £50 credit for use by the newly arrived refugees to enable them to contact loved ones.  This is accessed through the British Red Cross within 2 weeks of entering the UK and by calling 0344 871 1111 (option 5) and giving brief details. 

The first key thing to do is to set up a basic bank account for each adult.  We have managed this through HSBC but other banks can offer this too.  It is easiest with a biometric passport but a biometric Visa is also accepted.  We took the ‘permission to travel’ letters printed off from the email sent to each refugee and the visa application information. 

Once set up, this can help with proving ID for a Universal Credit claim as they need a passport and proof of address – a bank card and letter giving account details does this.  The sponsor is helpful on this as we can prove our address with photo ID and a utility bill. 

Our GP has told us that the family members will be registered as temporary residents when they need access to an appointment.  NHS 111 is available too.

Emergency Dentist can be contacted on 0333 405 0290 or by emailing westcountrydental.care@nhs.net 

We have tried to start a Child Benefit Claim as advised by the Job Centre, but when speaking to the CB helpline we were told that this is not possible as they do not have a NI number. I don’t think this is true as other refugee cases will have done this, but I have written to my MP for help on this specific matter, as advice and guidance for public servants is sorely lacking at this point in time”.

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We don’t want to reinvent the wheel, the existing community groups are doing an amazing job, but they need as much additional support as we can provide. That could be by way of volunteering in appropriate areas, offering homes to refugees, providing essential items, offering friendship and guidance to those that arrive here, (especially relevant for those of us who may speak an appropriate language), raising/donating funds, or even by writing to your MP to press for the removal of the visa requirements to speed up the process.

The following groups are providing varying support services for those in need, but many would also welcome support themselves from potential volunteers and donors. 

*Cornwall Refugee Resource Network (Facebook) – A Cornish community group working to support refugees at home and around the world.

*St Austell and surroundings Families for Ukraine Community (Facebook) – A group set up to facilitate networking between families/individuals in the St. Austell and surrounding areas who are either refugees from Ukraine, or are hosts who are sponsoring/ready to sponsor Ukrainian refugees.

*START Clothing Bank, Crafty Chat and Swap Shop (Facebook) – A group assisting refugees with their essential needs and distributing donated goods, such as clothes from T K Maxx and sim cards from Vodaphone, as well as donations from the public.

* ResetUK https://www.homesforukraine.org.uk/ and https://resetuk.org/ – Provides useful tips and training for potential sponsors and there is information in English, Ukrainian and Russian.

* Refugees at Home – Working with ResetUK and providing a simple “welcome leaflet” in English and Ukrainian about what can be expected from their accommodation.  They also have some guidance for hosts and guests. 

In addition, there are many other local, Cornish groups, who are providing vital support to refugees and their sponsors. The list below covers some that we are aware of:

www.buderefugeesupportgroup.org.uk

www.falmouthandpenrynwelcome.org

www.lrsg.org.uk/ukraine-crisis  (Launceston)

info@oneandallaid.org (email) (Penzance)

https://www.facebook.com/NewquayRefugeeSupportGroup/

simonperry21@gmail.com (email) (Tregony)

https://en-gb.facebook.com/groups/424115915326833/  (Truro)

https://en-gb.facebook.com/groups/1795111447382178/  (Wadebridge)

https://www.facebook.com/groups/271555171764371/  (St Austell)

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All these groups, and many others as well, are working to ease the trauma and stress for these refugees and their sponsors. They are, in the main, run by enthusiastic, dedicated volunteers – people who deserve our respect, gratitude and support.

We cannot comprehend what it must be like to be forced to flee your country. To leave your home (which if not destroyed already, could well be before you are able to return), abandoning most of your belongings and with them your memories. To possibly leave behind a husband, father, sons, so that they can fight to defend your country against an appallingly cruel and unjust invasion. We can only try to imagine – these refugees have had to live through it and suffer the consequences.

IF YOU CAN HELP IN ANY WAY, PLEASE DO!

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