This Saturday, Canterbury Rotarians from the three Canterbury Rotary Clubs will be uniting again to raise funds for Ukrainians - this time for Ukrainian refugee families that have arrived in the local area and need help while here.
Earlier this year the three Rotary Clubs of Canterbury (Rotary Club of Canterbury, Rotary Club of Canterbury Sunrise and Forest of Blean Rotary Club) united in their fundraising efforts for humanitarian aid for those affected by the war in Ukraine; over £7,200 was raised and sent to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) for this, with further funds to go soon.
Since then, many Ukrainian families have arrived here in the UK, often through the government's Homes for Ukraine scheme. The Canterbury Rotary Clubs now aim to help support these families – many of whom have left homes, communities, schools, friends and relatives behind and are re-adjusting to a new way of life while they are in the UK.
All funds raised will go to local charity Canterbury Umbrella which, at its Centre in St Peter's Place, is acting as a hub to host various activities. Umbrella is one of the bodies working together with Canterbury for Ukraine (C4U) - an initiative of local volunteers, charity organisations and local businesses that supports Ukrainian families coming to the Canterbury area "in their search for safety after escaping the atrocities of war in Ukraine".
As well as providing vital mental health support for the Ukrainian families and children and serving as a hub for them to meet, they also:
- help with language skills
- provide facilities for young children
- provide “pantry bags”
- support host families
The Umbrella Centre has been providing its support to Ukrainian families since early April. At present, it hosts two regular weekly meetings as well as a number of ad hoc meetings for various groups. The centre is also open on Saturdays for specific mental health support. Some of the families have young children who are traumatised; as well as support they are signposted to appropriate professionals. Representatives from The Department of Work and Pensions and the local education authority and others are often engaged as part of the support groups.
The Umbrella Centre also hosts language courses through its links with Canterbury Christ Church University; often refugees visit the Centre to practice their English.
The Umbrella Centre has also created a children's play area, which allows children to socialise and create friendships with others in the same situation as them.
Food pantry bags – a combination of donated food that is topped up with purchased items – are also provided to families that need them.
Support is also given to local host families as required; it is important that families share experiences as hosts as there are numerous stories of refugee families having to be relocated into hotels when there is a breakdown between the new arrivals and their hosts.
It's understood that there are over 100 families in the Canterbury area, although the Umbrella Centre also has visits from refugees living in Ashford, Dover and Folkestone.
The Forest of Blean Rotary Club has previously donated £2,800 to the Umbrella Centre to help with these specific activities (the Centre was already in a precarious funding situation before the crisis in Ukraine due to a massive drop in funding from Kent County Council). Those funds have been used specifically for the above activities, but sadly this funding is already running out – yet with the war ongoing there will be a continued need to support the refugees escaping from its horrors.
The collection this weekend will help the Centre continue its activities and will be earmarked to support these activities (no money is given directly to refugees or host families).
To find out more about Canterbury Umbrella, click here.
To find out about Canterbury for Ukraine, you can visit their Facebook page here.
Our online fundraiser to support the DEC's Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal is still open. To support this, please click here.