Our Ukrainian guests arrived late late late on Saturday night 14th May 2022 . Great to have them with us. Posting here as our experience in the hope it will help others following along.
1. Airport / Bristol.
a. Excellent welcome from the volunteer reception desk to us as hosts, including passing out paperwork that the Red Cross have written in both English and Ukrainian (I am assured they say the same thing)
b. Thank you to Chris from Border Force who phoned though from inside the security area to check with me that we were outside to meet them. We had supplied an introduction letter which our guests had saying we were welcoming them, giving their names and our address, phone number
c. Handshakes and hugs of welcome - open arms offered and accepted - all groups (perhaps 10 on the flight) - same thing, around 45 minutes after touchdown
d. Thank you to the car park folks who buzzed us out of the short term gate free of charge because we said we were picking up Ukrainians
Home and talking (just) into the early hours; seeing rooms; seeing how the lights and front door works (we have a keycard system from the days we were a hotel) and getting phones connected to the WiFi to let friends and family know they had safely arrived.
Talking, by the way, all through translate programs, with much laughter where it got it wrong. "My hovercraft is full of eels" standard
2. Home and Melksham on Sunday
Late to rise, helping the dogs, who are still very nervous and rather yappy, get to know guests and vice versa, early understanding of each other's meal habits and the like. And in the afternoon, "Mum" and Lisa stayed at home while I took a walk with the young adults around Melksham to give them an idea of the lie of the land. So they learned:
a. Where the ESOL classes will take place
b. How much they are welcome with all the blue and yellow displayed around the town
c. That the local police are friendly - bumped into a couple of PCSOs walking around (yes, really)
d. Where the shops and KGV park is - saw the skateboarding activity, children's play area, dog bark, canoes on the river - big thanks to Gabbi for making us welcome and the Ice creams (which I am shamelessly plugging here ;-) )
e. Back via Ruskin Avenue and Pembroke Road, showing them the local Morrisons
Lisa and Mum (mostly Mum) taken over the kitchen - but the younger ones too - and we enjoyed a typical Ukrainian borscht (or as close as they could get) as a family in the evening. Much planning too.
3. Monday - English for Speakers of Other Languages course started in the morning. Request to WC for the £200 see funding / starter because guests arrive with literally just a suitcase of clothes.
[I took the evening away from home stuff for a Town Council meeting - now chair of the Economic Development and Planning Committee which should keep me busy!]
4. Tuesday - to Chippenham
a. Job Centre - under the (mis)apprehension that we could apply there for Universal Credit, thus an NI number, and start getting work as soon as practical for everyone and interim funs. Turns out that the Government web site that says "you can apply at a job centre" really means "you must apply online, but can come in to use our computers if you wish". Lady there confirmed need for bank account and phone number to apply.
b. Three - stopped by their shop. Free of charge, unlimited for a month sims for everyone - I get the impression that with four adults we are rather a large group! Big welcome; it is free for a month. I'm sure that the hope of the supplier is that they will have a new paying customer thereafter
c. The Chippenham Hub - simply as we had time before a bank appointment; good to meet Sandy. Again very much a Welcome - though we all stood outside and chatted because Tuesday there is weight loss day not Ukrainian club.
d. Bank to set up four accounts (we had an appointment); needed mobile phone number, ID (passport) and host completed statement to confirm addresses, together with host confirmation of that address.
a. English for Speakers of other languages; guests are now able to get to class on their own. They are getting used to crossing the road and looking in the right direction, and we have shown them how we cross on the very dangerous corner outside our place
b. Dentist / registration, setting up initial appointments for guests with toothache next week and checkups next month for those not in pain. (Really needs NI number or equivalent but that can be added later). Having heard horror stories on this one, relieved that we did not have to struggle
c. First trip to a British supermarket to look at foods and work out what was liked and not liked. Used "Scan and Go" for which I am registered and once again VERY impressed by the politeness of our guests. Elements of explaining offers, and of checking pricing to ensure more economic products. A few things bought to try them out. Pity that we we chosen for a "random quality check" - those things give me the feeling that this customer is not entirely trusted!
d. Start of Universal credit - set up the first of four accounts. Explaining secret question, limitations on what can and cannot be in a password, checking email and phone number via emails and SMS messages with help and assistance provided by hosts speaking into a translator app a bit of a challenge and that'e even before we hit the main form
[I took the evening off to host the Melksham Transport User Group meeting, and then run a friend and colleague back to Beckington]
We are now an extended family. Very much learning all about one another, but communications improving day by day. Our initial concerns prior to the arrival of our guests - simply through a fear of the unknown on all sides have been dispelled. I now have a concern that they are so polite they won't raise issues with us.
Where are we now?
English -> continues Friday
Red Cross £50?
NiN / UC -> [continues] Thursday (plan)
Biometrics and BRP
£200 "immediate" -> entered Monday, Chased Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
Sport on TV
Wifi in bedroom 2 -> Thursday (plan)
On the horizon
Visit by Wilts Council to check up on everyone, -> Friday
Working out financial arrangements between us
Social life / lives
Learning about the area
Getting around on their own
a. Form filled for WC to claim our £350 on 25th of each month. Easy bit of the day.
b. A morning spent working out how the get the "immediate £200" per guest promised for straight away when the guests arrived. It turned out that Wilts Council have subcontracted payment to Citizens Advice because they are overwhelmed. So are Citizens Advice though, and although asked to ues my email address had used teh email address of the least net-savvy of of guests sending her a page of English to read and answer. We had the codes at about 4 p.m.
c. Setting up a new router so that WiFi reached the final bedroom
d. Three complete Universal Credit accounts set up and applications made - it gets noticably easier each one you do! One more to do tomorrow but we were getting hours from translating!
[And in other news, 2 hour IHFIG (former CATG) meeting, and a couple of Town Councillors around. Call on MTUG, Coffee Shop and other topics ... usual personal stuff that everyone has everyday]
a. ESOL class day 3, 12:00 - 14:30
b. Wiltshire Council visited to see how guests were getting on and how we were getting on. Lovely helpful lady, perhaps came across so well because we have only very minor issues which we tend to resolve ourselves. Of immediate note
* She checked our DBS, passports and driving licenses even though we have previously been checked and it was WC themselves who have done the DBS
* She used a council provided translator (Russian because Ukraine ones in short supply at the moment) and with "icky" connections was only just better than out automated apps - indeed we used those in the less formal end of the meeting. I understand that the translator was recorded.
* Translations of important information to us in English was not onward translated to guests
* She asked us if we were prepared to take other people in similar need. When I explained that all our rooms were filled, she said she meant "when they had found their own home" ... I'm not sure, though, whether they will - or their next move would be back to Ukraine with other siblings still there; we said "let's answer that when we come to it - not ruled out"
* She took a look at their rooms. Much giggling - I suspect they may be untidy
* Possibility raised of the younger guests going into education / getting some sort of course as an alternative to or additional to doing some work.
* Guests spoken with in private (as a private group)
* We were given an opportunity to talk in private but declined, confirming we were happy and it was unnecessary
* Informal "next steps" chat - "case worker" assignment (Job Centre), Doctor, BRP are on the list.
c. Collected £400 of the £800 initial payment from a PayPoint (it was running low on cash and could not manage it all). Service with a smile and queue build up behind us, but quick "sorry this is taking time" to the queue and they smiled / I'm pretty sure understandingly.
d. First Job Centre interview has come through for Monday
e. Completed final UC application ... 4 account setups and 4 applications made. Start of getting a NiN
f. Starting to see job adverts
g. WiFi repeater added to make things easier in distant bedroom from incoming router.
Continuing the log ... over the weekend.
* Shopping - Basketball and food
* Bank cards and codes have arrived
* Got rest of cash
* See where the Job Centre in Devizes is for Monday appointments
* visit to Garden Centre and Caen Hill Locks
A week in, and Monday (posting early in the morning) is ESOL and Job Centre meetings. BRP appointment and doctor remain on the "to do" list, and job centre meetings should help lead towards National Insurance numbers as well as the paths to work or for our younger guests perhaps further education.
- 3 x Job Centre. "Just" proved ID.
- ESOL for 1 (other three job centre clash)
- Picked up forms from Doctor and busy filling in
- Initial account (1) created ready for BRP application then lack of appointments available
- final Job Centre for ID (failed due to wrong passport taken)
- Dental checkups for two guests, with translation through "SayHi" and a very helpful (other at practise) Dentist who remembered some Russian from school. Now in the system and I will only flag up things of specific interest.
- Registered with doctor; long forms pre-filled (see Tuesday) gone through and a few corrections added. Again, helpful reception
- Further supermarket shop - product help, etc.
- Job centre visit for one (replacing Wednesday)
Looking ahead, we have visa extensions and BRP to sort out. We have further job centre visits, with National Insurance Numbers expected via that route in about a week's time; need/request to write CVs this weekend. Ongoing appointemnents on variouse elements which become personal and less that of immediate "early days" relevant. So this log will reduce in frequency as our lives settle.