Local MP Michael Gove met Homes for Ukraine scheme sponsors and guests today at the weekly Camberley social hub set up by Surrey Heath Borough Council and partners.
Mr Gove spoke with local people who have opened their homes to those fleeing for their lives from the war in Ukraine, and the Ukrainian guests who have been welcomed into the community.
The social hub, held at St Paul’s Church, is one of two set up in the Borough to help Ukrainian guests and sponsors meet others in a similar position, form a social network, and get relevant advice and support.
The well attended hubs are held weekly at Chobham Pavillion and St Paul's Church, Camberley, with SHBC staff and Job Centre colleagues on hand to support with any work and benefit related questions.
Mr Gove’s visit to the Camberley hub comes as the government announced that the total number of Ukrainian guests welcomed to the UK has reached the milestone figure of 100,000.
More than 100 sponsors in the Borough have come forward to offer space in their homes, and we have welcomed 130 people from Ukraine to Surrey Heath so far – with more expected in the coming weeks.
SHBC Deputy Leader Cllr Shaun Garrett also attended today’s hub session, along with Surrey Heath Portfolio Holder for Housing, Safeguarding and Support, Cllr Sarah Jane Croke.
Cllr Croke said: “Seeing the guests and sponsors at the hub today was so heartwarming. I am hugely grateful to everyone who has offered a place in their homes to those fleeing the war in Ukraine.
“Surrey Heath is such a caring and compassionate Borough – our Ukrainian guests have been through so much, and we want to help support them in their new homes and community.
“I am proud of the role the Council is playing to help make this scheme a success, and seeing this work first hand at the session has been really inspiring.”
Cllr Garrett said: “Having been involved in setting up SHBC’s Homes For Ukraine scheme in my previous Portfolio Holder role, I was delighted to come along to the hub today to see how well it is going.
"We’re proud of the Council’s part in this effort to help provide safe haven for Ukrainian people escaping the war, and we will continue to support our sponsors and guests however we can."
Council teams have been providing support and advice to all those involved in the Homes for Ukraine scheme, carrying out visits with host households and their Ukrainian guests, and assisting with essential safeguarding and property checks.
Find out more at our Ukrainian refugee webpage
One family’s story
At SHBC, we have been humbled by the generosity shown by residents opening their homes to those fleeing for their lives.
One such family is Iryna and her daughters Anhelina and Lidiia from eastern Ukraine, who arrived in Surrey Heath in April. They have been sponsored by Gail Lacey from Camberley.
Iryna is very happy to be living in Surrey Heath. Her younger daughter has started at a local school, while Iryna and her elder daughter are attending English lessons and have a job lined up to work for their sponsor’s company.
Sponsor Gail Lacey said: “The thought of a family already going through so much in their own country, and having to leave everything they know behind, broke my heart.
“I have children and grandchildren, and hope if they needed help themselves, some kind person would put their hand out to help. I am fortunate to have a flat available - how could I not give this family light at the end of the tunnel?
“They can now call this home for as long as they would like to stay. I am grateful that I have an amazing, supportive family who have been with me every step of this journey. We are all happy to say we now have an extended family and love them dearly.”