David's story - Homes for Ukraine sponsor
I felt that someone should help the people who found themselves in this horrible situation through no fault of their own, and with my children now having their own places, I had two spare rooms which were suitable.
It took four months to get permission for Nataliia, Oleg and Alina to travel and we communicated via WhatsApp whilst I reconfigured my house to best suit a family with a baby.
It was important to show as much of my home life, friends, family and local area as possible in order to put a vulnerable family at ease.
I collected them from the airport and found the Ukrainian desk very helpful at Luton. I think we were all relieved to have finally got them here safely, so it wasn’t awkward at all, our local community had helped with clothes and toys, a high chair and pram so it was a lovely experience getting them settled in.
I have a standout thread of memories, all revolving around their genuine joy and excitement seeing and experiencing new and different things here. Mead open farm, the land of lights, Halloween, bonfire night fireworks, the turning on of Christmas lights. Many simple things like feeding the hedgehogs at night and the birds during the day.
Adjusting to having a baby in the house again after so many years was a bit of a challenge. But baby gates and cupboard & window locks, little rubber covers on corners have all helped.
We used translation apps to start with but less now as Oleg’s English is pretty good and he helps his mother when she needs it.
Everyone has integrated in life here really well. Oleg loves attending school and Nataliia keeps herself busy looking after Alina and sewing. She has made an amazing soft book for Alina using a sewing machine a nice local lady gave her. They all love going out and exploring.
My advice to anyone currently sponsoring or thinking of hosting?
Be patient and don’t sweat the small stuff. Your guests will be finding it more difficult than you, with the added worry of news from home.
It’s an uncertain future for them until the war ends. And then all they would like is a small house in the Ukrainian countryside – it’s not a lot to ask.
On a personal level I would take away from this experience an enormous sense of wellbeing, it’s a real privilege to be able to help change a vulnerable family’s circumstances. Hopefully some lifelong friends too.
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