our response to the ukraine crisis

In liaison with our local authorities and other civil partnerships, the Together for Ipswich (TFI) Ukraine Response seeks to support and coordinate those among the 85+ Ipswich Churches that are responding to the crisis in Ukraine.

We provide a matching facility, by introducing potential Ipswich sponsors (or hosts) to reliable Ukrainian guest contacts. We offer support to the hosts by means of cultural and trauma awareness training, and host forums (a learning community for host families).

We offer support to Ukrainian guests by means of Community Hubs, which deliver English language classes, sewing classes, cafes and clothing banks, and give space and opportunity for Ukrainians to support one another.

TFI has also hosted Prayer Vigils and Suffolk (minibus) Tours, and provides signposting for community orientation and cohesion, employment, and housing opportunities.

Although primarily an Ipswich-focussed response, those representing or collaborating with TFI have also delivered supplies to the Poland/Ukraine borders, funded and equipped partners undertaking similar initiatives in Romania and Moldova, and trained other like-minded groups across the Balkans, as well as across other parts of East Anglia.

With an entirely different strategy to address their very different needs, TFI is now coordinating and supporting the efforts of various Ipswich churches as they reach out to those seeking asylum and presently living in local hotels.

We seek landlords, sponsors (hosts), ESOL teachers, Day Centre volunteer workers etc. If you would like to volunteer with us, please contact Alan Cutting, TFI Ukrainian Response lead, on ahcutting@yahoo.co.uk or 07834 693144.

five observations

by Alan Cutting

These are some of the values that have been formed in us as we have sought to listen to, walk alongside and serve the Ukrainian community in Ipswich.

1) Importance must ultimately weigh heavier than urgency.  

In times of crisis, it is easy to panic into making rash responses that are not thought through well enough, and which become unsustainable and even harmful in the mid- to long-term. ‘Do no harm’ is a value weaved into all our messaging. Decisions such as inviting a potentially traumatised guest from an entirely different culture and language into one’s home for 6-12 months should be considered very carefully, ‘slept on’, and fully agreed with all family members and others who might be impacted.

2) Relational kindness ultimately has more impact than functional service.  

So many practical aspects of life in the UK, such as finding a doctor and dentist, biometrics, job centre appointments, rightly and inevitably consumed many sponsors’ time and attention in the first few weeks of hosting but, in the longer-term, the most successful host/guest relationships have been just that, a relationship. Events such as ‘Suffolk Tours’ and Christmas parties were not merely organised to be the frilly edges of our response, but were fundamental to the building of good, wholesome, kind and trusting relationships. The statutory health and educational agencies rightly took up their responsibilities to provide essential services to our Ukrainian guests, but who would accompany them to their first doctor’s appointment; who would stand with them at the school gate? This relational ‘soft support’ makes the difference between a ‘house’ and a ‘home’; between functionality and integration.

3) 90% of trauma recovery can be worked out through giving space and time.  

Where there is significant trauma, specialist services are available and invaluable, but we have found that despite the ongoing horrors of what their nation is facing, giving permission, space, time, and a healthy environment in which to lament and stabilise, and arranging peer support for our Ukrainian friends, are among the best things we can do to facilitate steps towards inner peace and healing.

4) Good mission is seeing where God is already at work, and joining in.  

This response has taught us again how churches should be supported in doing things their own way. Some churches focus on forms of gospel proclamation, others on community and social action, and others still on prayer and sacrament. Words, works and wonders. The proclamation, the demonstration and manifestation of the one gospel. It is not the role of TFI to influence doctrinal emphasis, but to cheer on each church in the values and the ways they already feel called to serve God.

5) The priority of learning English, securing a job, and finding a home. 

Within weeks, it became very clear that to establish oneself in the UK, our Ukrainian guests arriving in the UK were faced with these three massive priorities. However wonderful the host, rural placements came with severe limitations of access and transport, creating issues and barriers with regard to these three priorities. And churches and hosts alike had to adapt from being those who kindly ‘did things for people and gave things to people’, into becoming equippers and mentors in the challenging task of supporting their guests to stand on their own two feet. ‘Aid’ had to turn into ‘development’. This process will continue well into 2023.