Hartlepool coffee shop to provide a warm welcome to Ukrainian refugees and host families

A caring coffee shop will play its part in supporting refugees who are staying in Hartlepool after fleeing war-torn Ukraine.

Saturday, 16th April 2022, 4:45 am

LilyAnne’s is to provide its Victoria Road premises as a place for Ukrainian families and their host families to meet and connect with each other.

The gesture is the latest in a series of responses to the crisis from the Hartlepool community.

Latest official figures, however, suggest that less than five visas have been granted for Ukrainians to live with host families in town.

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Trevor Sherwood (front right) project development manager at LilyAnne's Coffee Bar along with baristas Elijah Hunnisett and Iggy Anderson and commuity co-ordinator Angela Arnold prepare to welcome Ukrianian refugees.

Figures for others who may already be living here with relatives are not yet available.

The LilyAnne’s project will involve group drop-in sessions providing a safe and welcoming environment for Ukrainians to meet and socialise with other people from their country.

It will also allow host families to get together and develop a support network by sharing their experiences and supporting each other.

LilyAnne’s co-manager Trevor Sherwood said: “There’s been a lot of good going on at LilyAnne’s since we established in 2017, because we’re not just another coffee shop, we’re not just a coffee.

Refugees from Ukraine will travel over 1,000 miles to reach Great Britain.

"We want to be able to offer a central town centre location whereby those hosting a Ukrainian family can come and connect over a coffee with other hosts while also being able to offer a place for those Ukrainian families to be able to come here and connect with other Ukrainian families living so far away from home.”

LilyAnne’s will host coffee mornings every Thursday and Saturday at 10am for people to meet and connect with each other.

It will also work with and direct people to other other organisations and charities offering support to Ukrainian families and hosts across Hartlepool such as The Big League and Let’s Connect.

Big League volunteer Fiona Cook said: "The Big League, alongside other local community organisations have developed a ‘whole systems’ infrastructure to support refugees in the town out of the Salaam Centre.

"The work will provide Hartlepool with a holistic system of support for refugees including English teaching, skills training, job searching, food provision, community integration, registration support through partnership with local health and well-being stakeholders."

There will also be a weekly Big League support group for host families.

The Government’s schemes for helping Ukrainian refugees settle in this country has been criticised as too slow and cumbersome.

The Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme – also known as Homes for Ukraine – was announced in February and allows United Kingdom citizens to volunteer to house refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine.

Sponsors agree to offer accommodation for at least six months with those receiving sponsorship allowed to live, work and study here for up to three years.

Nationally, 12,500 sponsorship visas had been issued by April 7 although just 1,200 refugees had arrived in the UK through the scheme by April 5.

Another 10,800 Ukrainians are settling with relatives countrywide as part of the separate Ukraine Family Scheme.

As part of its new project, LilyAnne’s is looking to recruit a volunteer who can speak Ukrainian.

Contact (01429) 728041 if you can help.

Further information about supporting The Big League’s efforts – with volunteers who have experience with children and languages required – are available by emailing [email protected]

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