Andy and Debbie have been hosting a mum and her two children since August 2022. Here they share what that has been like for them.
Matching with a family
I think we all felt for the Ukrainian people when Russia invaded their country. We spoke to each other about what we could do to help. We are ‘empty-nesters’ and our children live relatively nearby, rarely stay over and fully support what we are doing. We wanted to host a family and decided that a Mum with up to 2 children would fit nicely into our house, without it becoming too overcrowded. We registered to become hosts.
We found our family via a facebook group and started talking via Zoom in early July, discussions included a decision on both sides to talk if there were any problems and to adopt the Government’s published agreement. Once both sides had decided that we were a match, we spent time on-line helping them with the visas and arranging a suitable date for them to arrive.
The family arrive
This is when Wokingham Borough Council stepped in. Once the visas had been granted, we were contacted and a case-worker Louise came round, taking us through things like applying for the required DBS checks, sending round a boiler engineer to make sure the house was safe with the required alarms (this was funded by the council) and talking to us about what they could do to help. She advised us that as soon as our family arrived, they would arrange to come round to welcome them.
Louise was moving to another job within the council and so when our family arrived in mid-August, our new case-worker Gareth came round the following day, gave them some money to tide them over and advice on what needed to be done regarding claiming benefits and applying for schools (we had actually already obtained school places prior to the children’s arrival) and gave them UK sim cards, bus passes and local gym membership cards.
What's gone well
We really get on well with our Ukrainian family, they are lovely, we enjoy their company and about once a week we all share a meal and play board games or card games. It feels good that our home now has a family feel to it again.
We have had one or two very small issues on both sides, but we talk about these before they become big issues and they are easily solved.
The agreement we all signed means that we all know exactly which are our own private spaces and which we share, which also defines what areas we clean. It also sets out that we share the energy and water bills, which has we know been a bone of contention in some placements, in these times of rising costs.
We have great support from Gareth, who is on hand should we need him. At Christmas he arranged with a local charity ‘The Cow Shed’ to provide Christmas Presents for the children. The youngest, a girl aged six had such a lovely big bag of presents that some were saved for her 7 th birthday in January!
We meet regularly with Gareth and he updates us every week with any news. Recently he advised that a local Dentist was taking children as NHS patients and we managed to get the two children registered.
At the start there was a lot of paperwork and we have spent time showing our family where places are in Wokingham and Bracknell. However, once shown they are happy to walk, or use the bus.
We feel that the initial time spent on this has helped cement our friendly relationship. Paperwork continues for things like applying for a new school for the seven year old next year when she moves up to junior school, but we are happy to help.
Our family are just coming up to the 6 month mark and they wish to stay with us and we are happy for them to do so.
The Mum’s English is improving, and the children are happy in their schools, so remaining in a settled environment makes sense at the moment.
Gareth talks us through future planning for everyone, which is of course necessary, but currently the aim is to continue as we are, whilst Mum improves her employment prospects by improving her english language skills and the children continue with their education in safety.
Could you be a host for a guest from Ukraine?
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