'Hugs' for Ukrainian refugees through new north Norfolk group

Some of the Sheringham area host families who have Ukrainian refugees living with them, at the Hugs meeting.

Some of the Sheringham area host families who have Ukrainian refugees living with them, at the Hugs meeting. - Credit: Phil Bailey

People in Sheringham and surrounds have given a 'hug' to Ukrainians who have come to live in the area since the invasion of their home country. 

The newly-formed Hosting Ukrainians Group Support, or Hugs for short, has held a gathering at the town's Lighthouse Community Church, which drew around 60 people.

Liz Withington, a group founder, said there were about 35 Ukrainians who had come to live in the Sheringham area under the government's refugee schemes, but not all were able to attend the June 17 meeting because some had already found work and were working. 

Ms Withington said: "The reason Hugs was set up was to ensure both hosts and our Ukrainian friends were able to connect with each other and support each other through what are the most horrendous of times for Ukraine.

"Our first event was a great success in bringing people together, welcoming them to Sheringham and showing those who are here that there is help and support available and that other people do care."

Liz Withington, from Sheringham, who is part of the Hugs group for Ukrainian refugees and their families. 

Liz Withington, from Sheringham, who is part of the Hugs group for Ukrainian refugees and their families. - Credit: Submitted

The group has also been gathering donations of what the hosts and Ukrainian families need - as many left their homes with very few possessions. Hugs has able to find beds, linen and baby equipment for hosts, and there have also been donations of clothing, school uniform, toys and books and money to buy items such as school shoes.

Paula Prince, another member of the group, said: "It was most rewarding to see the children who have arrived playing feeling safe and secure and chatting with children in their own language."

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More than 1,000 visas have been issued to Ukrainians matched up with host families in Norfolk, and around 600 have arrived so far.

Speaking previously, Andrew Proctor, Norfolk County Council leader, said: "We are rightly proud of the generosity our county has shown with people opening their homes, preparing to welcome our newest residents, raising money and getting supplies directly to the refugees from Ukraine."

Host families and Ukrainian refugees living in the area can get in touch with Hugs via hostingukrainiansg@gmail.com.

North Norfolk District Council has a new Ukrainian support worker, Oksana Croom, and runs drop-in meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays 2pm-4pm at its Holt Road, Cromer office to for hosts and guests.