The devastating war in Ukraine has meant that many have had to leave their homes and loved ones behind. Local charity, Wings, have created a central hub in Bideford where Ukrainian refugees can meet and receive advice and support. The hub, supported by Torridge District Council has been recognised for its efforts and Council Leader Ken James, visited to meet with Ukrainian refugees and their families. The efforts of Torridge District Council and the fantastic work being undertaken by Wings has also been recognised with a visit from Torridge MP, Sir Geoffrey Cox QC.
The Ukrainian hub located in Lower Meddon Street started welcoming refugees on the 13th May 2022. Hub Manager, Andy Best, and the incredible team of volunteers have worked hard to create a welcoming space where Ukrainians can meet others who are being housed in Torridge and the surrounding area. The shared space enables its guests to build relationships and a community whilst receiving support and practical assistance.
Hub Manager, Andy Best managed to sit down with Mariana who was living in Lviv, Western Ukraine when war broke out:
“I remember hearing rockets flying overhead, but I was fortunate that I didn’t see any soldiers in my area. A friend of mine knew a host in the UK and asked if I wanted to stay for a year. It took three weeks to close my dance school business and arrange to put my belongings in storage. My journey took me via Krakow, where I stayed for twenty-four hours before flying to London.
My hosts and some fellow Ukrainians that I had made contact with in the area told me about the Ukrainian hub in Bideford. I met Andy from Wings and he was able to provide lots of help with the hub being a safe place to meet other Ukrainians. One thing that really struck me on arriving in Devon was seeing so many Ukrainian flags. It is very comforting knowing that we have the support of so many people and that we are not alone.”
The team behind the Wings Charity are extremely grateful for the support they have received so far with donations from businesses such as Asda and Skern Lodge. The local community has also been very generous with the team overwhelmed at the amount of offers of support received.
Cllr. Ken James, Leader of Torridge District Council said:
“It’s fantastic to see the hub in Bideford thriving with people of all ages mixing. I am very proud that as a Council we are supporting Wings in helping them deliver this essential service. The team have created something very special with children having the space to enjoy games and their mums the space to talk and share their experiences. It was fantastic to meet and speak to the refugees and talk through the experiences they have been through. They are extremely grateful for the support they have received and I am proud that Torridge District Council are part of supporting such a valuable service. Well done to everyone involved!”.
Andy Best, Ukrainian Hub Manager, said:
“I am so proud to be part of this project. So many people have supported the Wings team and the hub! Just to see people that have fled their homes and all that they knew, making friends and laughing together, makes me feel that they will be able to not just survive here in Northern Devon, but actually thrive and have hope for a better future.”
Northern Devon now hosts many Ukrainian families with aid and services coordinated by the Pickwell Foundation. The Foundation is supported by both Torridge and North Devon Councils.
The Ukrainian Hub is open from 11:00am to 1:00pm every Friday, for more information visit www.wingsukrainehub.com.
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