Polish Family Association (PFA) and Commonside Trust set up the Ukraine Refugee Hub based in the New Horizon Centre, in the east of the borough in Pollards Hill. PFA advisers provide face-to-face and telephone support in key areas, to help settle in, four days a week with a telephone service on Fridays. The most frequent requests at the Ukraine Refugee Hub have been for help with obtaining a National Insurance Number, opening a Bank account in the UK, acquiring the Biometric Card from the Home Office, and helping with food and English classes (ESOL). There is a weekly programme of activities in addition to the advice service.
Merton Ukraine Refugee Hub
What does your money buy?
On the ground costs in Poland are estimated as follows (these are basic, minimum costs):
- Logistics and transport (to Poland, in Poland and to Ukraine) – 9,000 US$
- Baby food 15,000 US$
- Books, games, school materials for children and young people – 1,000 US$
- Medication 15,000 US$
- Animal food 2,000 US$
- Sleeping bags and mattresses 2,000 US$
Totalling 44,000 US per month or 528,000 US$ per year
Volunteering and volunteer needs
There has been a heart-warming response from people in Merton wishing to help on this programme, particularly from those without sufficient space at home to host a refugee who want to help in any other way they can. We are working with these volunteers to expand the social and learning aspects of our programme and will develop these roles further in the next few weeks.
We are in particular looking for more sponsors and fundraisers. Our current fundraising target is £20,000 to purchase a mini bus to use for transport and logisitics in UK and Poland. If you can help us by running a fundraiser or crowd-funder please get in touch.
Refugees from Ukraine in Merton are also potential volunteers in the borough. Many would prefer to undertake paid work but face language and other hurdles before they can do this. Thoughtful volunteer placements could help with practising converational English, for example we currently have a qualified medic who seeks intensive English language training to enable her to work for the NHS, who is also volunteering at Commonside’s Lunch Club for Older People. We want to work with other partners in South London to offer meaningful volunteer opportunities for refugees from Ukraine that can help them towards earning and saving money and to help with their sense of wellbeing or at least reduce their discomfort.
Help us to help Ukranian refugees in our centres in Poland and Merton
Our heartfelt thanks in all of our endeavours to date go to many, many people who have helped, including:
Wimbledon AELTC Foundation
Lauren Palmer, Grants and Community Officer
Registered Charity No. 1177681
Sharon Pindar, Chair of Trustees and Abigail Hanley, Marketing and Communications Officer
Royal Warrant Holders Association, Ania Wlodarczyk-Lebioda
Marie-Noelle Peltier, Manager, Bid Management, Centre for Excellence
Team Łukasz – Łukasz „Kaktus” Pawlak
- Jeżonauci – MadziaRa & Adam
- Szymon „Sasha” – Canine Nose
- Alexander P „Olek” – Exotic Fest
- Kasia & Radek „Puchaty Patrol”
- Tomasz „Antek” A & his family
- Jacek W
- Dominik H
- Tomasz „Misiór” M
- Jerry W and Marta D
- Agata „Agueda” P
- Mariusz G
- Agnieszka K – Trakcja
- Tomasz K – Trakcja
- Aljona M – Trakcja
- Zuzanna „Zusia” P
- Pawel M
- Milena P
- Alex Xyz 😊
& many others
Read About the Merton Ukraine Refugee Hub
At the beginning of March 2022, at a fundraising event for helping refugees from Ukraine organised by the local MP, Siobhain McDonagh, I made a speech. I ended that speech by describing a ‘giant, mighty, humanitarian, human chain – Brits helping British Poles to help Poles in Poland to help refugees from Ukraine’. Ukraine was the front line, Poland was the next line, and we in the UK had to stand shoulder to shoulder with those with contacts in Poland, Romania, Moldova, Hungary and Slovakia as they would bear the brunt of civilians fleeing as a result of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
And bear the brunt they have. We have seen this.
The longer this war goes on, the bigger the strain on the people in the ‘next in line’ countries enumerated above, the more difficult it will be for ordinary people in those countries to carry on helping more and more refugees as they flee over the borders. These are not countries where people are generally well-off, generous as they are, and the last thing we want to see happen next is any up-build of resentment for the newly arrived refugees. If we do not continue to and increase support for our friends and contacts in the ‘next in line’ states (Poland, Romania, Moldova, Hungary, Slovakia) this may become inevitable.
Here, we are focusing on Poland, because that is where we have the on the ground contacts, and that is where the majority of Ukrainians are arriving.
When my colleague Sławek, CEO of Polish Family Association, made his first post-Ukraine-invasion visit to Poland in April this year, he returned visibly shocked. He described people ‘just on the streets with nothing much to do’ and explained how he realised that those refugees who do manage to reach the UK are likely to be those with more stamina, less trauma or more connections – family, friends etc. Many in Poland had had just enough reserves of energy to get themselves over a border – any border – they are not likely to have the energy, the data, the money, the language skills or just the frame of mind to tackle the hurdles that exist to get to the UK. Even with arguably, the most simplified immigration arrangements since the 1970s in place.
And being on the British Isles, islands as they are, must feel a long, long way away from the war. If you have lost everything including your home, and your husband, partner, father, brother is fighting on the front line in Ukraine, it must tear you up inside even to consider moving even further away. Being ‘near in a way’ must be one of the few assurances that you can feel. Even if it is uncomfortable.
And so, the work that we do, that we have been doing, with our contacts in Poland, becomes even more vital. Literally vital: we are saving lives.
Allow me to take you through some of this work and the differences your and our support can make.
Introducing first Łukasz Pawlak and Magdalena Lorenz. They are out and about working their socks off in Poznań and Wielkopolska. If you are not sure where this is, Imagine drawing a line between Berlin and Warsaw and the region of Wielkopolska is roughly in the middle – we are in Western Poland.
Łukasz is by career a logistics and supplies expert. You can probably tell!
- More about Magda in the Polish Association for the Protection of Hedgehogs – „Nasze Jeże” article below.
- Read Łukasz’s description of their group’s mission below.
- Read more about what we’ve done in the articles below.
We want our group to be locally recognised for doing the impossible, for finding everything needed by people who have nothing, with no regard to politics.
evacuate animals from the most dangerous regions.
regularly help by supplying muc-needed products on time.
– Łukasz Pawlak