On Friday, 3rd March, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) hosted an event at Salisbury Guildhall to celebrate the achievements of 50 Ukrainian refugees, one year on from the start of the conflict.
The women, who are now based in and around Salisbury, have successfully completed courses through the IRC’s UK Programmes, and the event included a graduation ceremony in which the women collected their certificates.
Anna shared her reflections of the day, saying: “Today, it’s a nice atmosphere here. Lots of Ukrainians are here and lots of English people who are helping us and supporting us. I’m very happy to be here and to meet and to receive a lot of kind attitudes and very funny events [games] happening here.”
The Ukrainian women had all completed a 10-week Orientation for Newcomers course, which provides support on navigating life in the UK, including how to access local services, such as the NHS, and understanding their rights and responsibilities.
Anna said she found the course “very useful”, and said that they taught her: “Important stuff in the UK, like how to live here, how to study, how to rent an apartment, some information that I didn’t know about.”
Many of the women have also completed a Job Readiness course, providing personalised CV and cover-letter support, job research and application support, and mock interviews, to set themselves up to secure a job in the UK.
Olena said that she learnt a lot from the Job Readiness course and that she is now applying for a job: “I am applying now, making my CV. I finally understand the difference between types of contracts, that makes a lot of sense that I had never known before.”
Having just passed the one-year anniversary of the conflict, the event also served as a moment of reflection and the group came together to create paper aeroplanes in the colours of the Ukrainian flag, writing their wishes and hopes for the coming year inside.
Olena shared that the group are now “so close to each other”, and described the day as having a beautiful atmosphere.
Emery Igiraneza who is the Acting Head of UK Programmes at the IRC explained the importance of providing this kind of support to refugees: “When refugees don’t have the information and tools needed to navigate their new country, it hinders their ability to rebuild their lives and means UK society cannot benefit from the diverse strengths and contributions of new arrivals.
Integration and employment support is key to empowering refugees with the confidence and knowledge they need to navigate life in the UK, to acquire new skills for the labour market, and to thrive in their local communities.
Having recently expanded the programme to include Ukrainian clients, we are so pleased to be able to host a graduation event in Salisbury to celebrate the achievements of our incredible graduates and their communities.”
The IRC began programming in the UK in 2021, drawing upon experience of running refugee integration programmes in the USA and Europe, to help refugees rebuild their lives here.
Initially, the programmes primarily supported Syrian and Afghan refugees, and most recently expanded to launch the Ukraine Response Project in summer 2022 to support newly arrived Ukrainians as they rebuild their lives in the UK.
The programmes work in partnership with local councils, and now offer sessions in English, Dari, Pashto, Arabic, Russian and Ukrainian to refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Sudan and Ukraine.