MESH in the EAST
On 19th May the MESH team travelled East. We visited Scarborough, on the east coast of North Yorkshire. Scarborough has around 150 Ukrainians staying in the area, many of them coming as part of the Homes for Ukraine scheme set up in the wake of the war. Our trip was all about engaging with this population. In collaboration with Lucy Moss-Blundell of North Yorkshire Stronger Communities Programme, we organised a training day for Ukrainians with the aim of exploring learning opportunities both in the locality and further afield.
We held our session at the Sunflower Hub and Café, a convivial space set up at the town’s Salvation Army citadel, tucked away in a narrow street adjacent to a busy through road. The Hub is managed by Steve Noble and his fantastic team, including Iryna and Inna, both from Ukraine and now instrumental in shaping the feel of this Scarborough space.
The Hub has a vital purpose. It is there to provide the opportunity to foster social connections in the locality for people whose connections are often more far flung and fraught with anxiety. There is a warm welcome and relaxed atmosphere in this space, which seeps into our session. The participants are engaged and often serious, intent on getting the most out of the day, in a way that suggests that this is their place. I get a creeping sense of embarrassment about the fact that I had begun the day by welcoming them, in Ukrainian; not so much because of my clumsy accent, but because I see increasingly that it is they who are welcoming us to their space – and very graciously too.
We learned a lot about the issues that affect Ukrainians in the UK because of the war. We learned that some people continue to work in Ukraine, even though they live in Scarborough! The war produces complex and creative transnational links. We learned about the frustrations that well qualified people face when their skills and experience seem to mean so little. We learned about the support gained from committed hosts. We learned, yet again, about the huge challenge that learning English can be. We learned how diffuse the challenges of individuals are, and about their resilience in the face of all this. All very valuable and thought-provoking for the MESH team. Hopefully the participants also learned something about how to navigate and get the most out of learning opportunities in the UK, and how MESH services might help them to do this.
by John Zavos