WHO WE'RE GOING TO BE IN 2024
I was extremely honoured this month to be invited to the ‘Together at Christmas’ Carol Concert hosted by the Princess of Wales, at Westminster Abbey, and supported by The Royal Foundation, recognizing charities and community groups who have support children and families within their local communities. I was so proud to represent Mother Sister Daughter and all that we have achieved in supporting Ukrainian refugee families transition into our community since war started in Ukraine last year.
I continue to be overwhelmed by the support that we have within our local community and am also immensely proud of what our volunteers and supporters have achieved since February last year. As time moves it is easy to forget how it started and what has been achieved, and all the small wins made, but I maintain it simply would not have been possible without my core team of volunteers and all of the people that have helped in any small way during this time. So thank you. Truly thank you.
I must extend a huge thanks to Gaynor Peel, Iona Hoyle and Vicky Smith, who have continued to run our weekly coffee mornings for the past few months, and service and support our wonderful Ukrainian families, whilst changes in my personal life have not always afforded me the time to attend our weekly meet ups.
Equally what I have realized is that we, and I mean the collective ‘we’ (as in the whole of the Henley community and its surrounding villages and regions), have been so successful in our support that many of our families are living their own lives and have forged their new lives so efficiently that we don’t get to see them as often as we would like!
At a time of year when it is always good to reflect, we really have achieved so much; from those early days when we were matching host families, evacuating people on the next available flights, and trying to process visa applications on a government system that was being built as we were trying to use it. From working with Dave Eggleton who was organizing truck loads of supplies to go out to Ukraine, through getting clothes and food and toiletries and toy donations locally, helping with school applications, working with team at Nomad and the D2 Centre, supporting host families, running art workshops, yoga sessions, well being classes, supporting English Classes set up by Diana Barlett, amazing Jumble sales to raise money, to now, where we are still running weekly coffee mornings, that whilst they might not be as busy as they were in those early days, are just as important as a point of connection, help and support, for those of our Ukrainian community who still need it.
Whilst sadly the situation in Ukraine remains unchanged, we are acutely aware of the wider impact the war has had on our global economy and the economic crisis that has gripped so many people now. We are very conscious that so many of our local community who were so generous in their support and donations last year, may indeed be struggling themselves now. Hence, we are excited to announce that as we roll into 2024 we are planning great things and would like to widen our services and support to our local community; firstly because we see it is needed and secondly because we want to give back to those that helped so freely and generously when we needed it most. We know there are some fabulous local charities, and charities further afield that support our local community, such as Nomad, The Baby Bank, and many more, but we also know that the need and pressure on them is greater now than it has ever been, and so we want to utilize all of our experience and knowledge from the past 20 months, and extend it to all of those who might be struggling in our community right now. This extension of care will by no means dimmish the support we will continue to offer our wonderful Ukrainian families, but instead hopefully enrich our community and simply create a wider net of support for those who need it.
Henley is an incredible place but there is a deep misconception that everyone is wealthy and on the contrary I’m sure most people reading this will agree that is not the case. Absolutely we live in a beautiful area and there any many high net worth individuals living here but there are also lots of people who have ‘high debt worth’; for example, families that have chosen to mortgage or rent high so that their children can grow up in this fabulous place.
We have a shocking percentage of children living under the poverty line and whom go to school hungry. Whilst the numbers might not be comparable to inner city schools and many, many other areas in the country, the point is that we should feel responsible for our neighbours and our community and do what we can to help the people we can.
So collectively let’s collaborate to make sure there isn’t a single child going to school hungry in Henley and our surrounding villages. Let’s check in on our elderly neighbours who we haven’t seen for a few days and spend that extra 5 minutes talking to them, and let’s remember that a big house doesn’t always mean wealth, it could just mean a bigger debt and higher heating bills, and given how fragile life can be, a job loss, or illness can change a person’s overnight.
On 24th January 2024 we are launching ‘Community Soup’ and we will be opening this to everyone in our local community. We want this to be a monthly event and a safe place for anyone to come and share some food and conversation. We want everyone to feel equal when they walk through the door and want it to become a vehicle to encourage ‘Community Chat’. We are but a big ‘soup’ of people and that is what makes a community. Please come and get to know your neighbours. Imagine how many small conversations that could be ignited, creating a ripple effect of small actions, meaning that our community is already a better place when we leave the event – what a movement we could create!
WHO WE ARE 2023
As we start a new year I thought it was important to update this section, as who we are now has certainly evolved from when I started this project in the early hours that night it February when the first Russian missile hit Ukraine. That said I feel it is important to keep our history hence I've left my original write up below.
The start up of 'me' has incredibly turned into a small group of wonderful, completely dedicated volunteers who work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure all of our local Ukrainian families are resettled comfortably and get whatever it is that they might need. We hold weekly coffee mornings where we give out lots of hugs and listen and chat and try to solve problems however we can. We have built up an incredible network of supporters who have been so generous in their donations and offers of support and we are truly grateful for them. None of this would be possible without the generosity of our local community.
2022 was the most challenging year for all of our families, and as we move into 2023 we are still here, committed to supporting them and helping them travel through this next year in whatever way we can. If you'd like to get involved and help us create a positive ripple effect for our wonderful families, then please get in touch.
WHO WE ARE 2022
Hello, I'm Gemma and I created this website in the darkest hours unable to sleep thinking about all of the Ukrainian people having to flee their homes and how long all of the processing is taking to get them to a place where they can breathe again and think about their next steps. Humanitarian centres are mandatory but 2 million people and counting are not going to get processed that quickly. I understand that all of the Governments of all of the Countries helping are doing what they can, but the process is simply too slow, particularly here in the UK.
Those children need to sleep in beds and feel safe again. Their mothers need to rest and breathe again, and they all need to feel clean sheets and clothes on their backs and recover in a safe place.
I am a Mother and I cannot stop crying at the plight of all of these people. So my idea was simply to create a registration database, that hopefully means we can, alongside Government agencies, start to place people in safe homes and give these families the best possible start to rebuilding their lives and moving on.
This is not exclusive to Ukrainian refugees, but for NOW this is focussed on Ukrainian refugees only.
I am hoping that this will evolve and we can also use this space to help refugees obtain jobs, help with language barriers, Well-being rehabilitation, for us to be able to connect children with schools and so on, but most importantly in a controlled and managed way, so that no one falls through the gaps. Ultimately all of these people will want to get back to their families and rebuild their homes together, but they will need a huge amount of support and help in order to do that.
I hope this works (we have to try) and we have thousands of people registering and on that basis I will need help!
If you're not able to offer a room, but want to be involved and believe you have skills to offer, then please get in touch.