Large and small community groups are playing a vital role in welcoming and supporting Ukrainians making a home in Buckinghamshire. We have caught up with two groups in order to share their great ideas and to help inspire other groups, charities and individuals to create their own unique events to help Ukrainians.
Chiltern Sunflower Support – A Concert for Ukraine
Chiltern Sunflower Support is a voluntary community group established in March 2022 to help Ukrainians fleeing from conflict. They run a weekly Ukrainian hub at St Mary’s Church Rooms in Chesham to welcome all Ukrainians who come into the area. There are English lessons for differing abilities run by TEFL volunteers, followed by an opportunity to meet and socialise together. Each week up to 50 Ukrainian guests attend.
In October Liudmyla (Lusy) Druzenko, a composer, pianist and singer songwriter who moved from Odessa to Chesham, joined other professional musicians from Chesham to provide an evening of music. Hosted by Chiltern Sunflower Support and in collaboration with St Mary’s Church, Chesham, the musicians performed a range of music to a packed church – from Les Miserables to A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.
They were followed by a Ukrainian folk group which performed a medley of Ukrainian folk songs, with all musicians being joined by Ukrainians who attend the hub at the end of the evening, in a moving rendition of the Ukrainian National Anthem. Over £4,000 was raised through ticket sales for Big Love Charity, a charity supporting vulnerable Ukrainians on the borders of Ukraine in Moldova and Romania.
Yulia, from the folk group, said: “This evening wasn’t only about collecting money. It was about huge hopes for the happy future. It was all about strong feelings of support and helping hand. We were empowered by every smile and tear, by every hearty wish and sincere word. We are deeply touched by the amount of incredible emotions the audience got from folk music, and we are extremely grateful for everything British people do for us.”
Another member of the folk group, Natalia, added: “It is hard to describe how painful this war is for us Ukrainians. It would be impossible for our nation to stand alone against the aggressor. Evenings like this shows that we are not alone. It was unity of free people souls. That was the night’s magic. We are very grateful.”
Marlow Ukraine Collective Raise Vital Funds Through 1,600 Yellow Ducks
The Marlow Ukraine Collective launched 1,600 bright yellow rubber ducks in the Thames as part of the Cookham Regatta and its annual fundraising duck race.
Joining together with the Marlow Thames Rotary Club and Marlow Refugee Action, the charity co-ordinated the duck race to raise money to provide English lessons and essential support for Ukrainians in Marlow. Each duck entered into the race cost £2.50 with prizes for the winning ducks, including afternoon tea at Claridges Hotel, fine-dining at some prestigious local hotels, one-night breaks and a variety of gifts from local businesses.
Ukrainians and their host families from across Marlow attended the event with Ukrainian students rallying support at the regatta on the day. Overall an amazing £4,000 was raised to help local Ukrainians.
Chris Horn, volunteer and event fundraiser for the Marlow Ukraine Collective, explained: “The duck race not only helped to raise funds but was a much needed opportunity to have fun and bring Ukrainians, their hosts and the community together. Even the ducks swimming upstream didn’t dampen our enthusiasm and a great time was had by all. It’s essential to continue to help our Ukrainian guests as much as we can and we’re glad that our work is inspiring other charities and groups too.”