St John of God (SJOG) and Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) are part of the Community Sponsorship movement in the UK offering a matching, training and support service to sponsors and guests under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters its second year, this massive assault on an independent Ukraine menaces not only Eastern Europe, but the human effort, since World War II, to build global peace through the international rule of law. The brutal conflict has triggered the largest war-related migration of people since the Balkan War of the 1990s, with more than five million people are internally displaced within Ukraine, while more than eight million have fled the country seeking refuge in other countries – with 86% of these refugees being women and children.
The psychological effects of living in a war zones and then having to leave your home and country behind have taken a heavy toll on those attempting to build a new life in a different country. Pope Francis summarises the right response ‘to the arrival of migrating persons in four words: welcome, protect, promote and integrate’ (Fratelli tutti, 129-130).
The UK government has provided critical support to Ukraine, including welcoming more than 160,000 refugees and providing military and humanitarian assistance. The majority of Ukrainians entering the UK since February 2022 have done so via the two special visa routes.
These are the Ukraine family scheme (allowing Ukrainians to join family members already present in the UK) and the Ukraine sponsorship scheme, commonly known as “Homes for Ukraine”. Homes for Ukraine allows Ukrainian nationals to come to the UK if they have a sponsor able to provide them with accommodation for at least six months.
Already the UK government has issued more than 65,000 Ukraine family scheme visas and 152,600 visas via homes for Ukraine. Visa holders under both schemes have the right to work and study in the UK for up to three years and access to benefits. Homes for Ukraine also offers monthly payments to hosts and refugees.
Many households have opened their doors to displaced Ukrainians. One of the official providers, SJOG’s Homes for Ukraine programme, matches Ukrainian guests with UK hosts, offers online training and informational resources for both hosts and guests, transfers guests from the Ukrainian border to the city nearest to their future home, and provides a welcome box upon arrival. Once settled in the SJOG programme provides all concerned with ongoing support and community liaison to make the experience as seamless and fulfilling as possible on both sides.
Many hosts have found the experience positive, with one host commenting: “My guest is a delight to share my home with. I am very happy to share the shopping and my kitchen with her and we take turns making evening meals for each other. With the help of the SJOG booklet, I was able to find out all the help available to her, such as the Red Cross payment and the Vodafone SIM-card, and help her obtain these. Hopefully, she feels as comfortable with me as I feel with her.”
It is not only the guest families who benefit from the Homes for Ukraine experience. Hosts are encouraged to form a meaningful connection with their Ukrainian guests, and to learn about their culture and experiences. Many have found that the scheme has opened up rewarding and lasting new friendships and has given them fresh perspectives on family life and solidarity.
By becoming a host through the SJOG Homes for Ukraine you can make a real impact in the lives of Ukrainians during a time of great need. If you have room in your home and in your heart to consider welcoming a stranger displaced by war, then we’d love to hear from you.
Visit CSAN’s website for more information on the Ukraine conflict and other ways to support at: www.csan.org.uk/ukrainetoolkit/.