Welcoming Refugees with Open Arms: the Ukraine Hub in Salisbury

21 June 2023

Begun just weeks after the invasion of Ukraine, the Ukraine Hub has helped 150 Ukrainian families so far. Run by a core of motivated volunteers, the Hub is based in Salisbury Methodist Church.  

Jane Ebel from Salisbury was working in Moldova for a charity helping children with special needs when it all started. “I kept getting messages from people at home who wanted to help and host but there was no real structure in place at the time and no one to help them,” she recalls. Coming back to Salisbury soon after, she met with Jill Tomalin and together they organised a public meeting for those interested in helping Ukrainians including private individuals, charities, local MPs and council representatives.  
“The officials there told us that everything was under control, but we didn’t think what they were doing was enough,” says Valeriy Melnik, who has been volunteering with the Hub from the beginning.  

The first months were frantic, matching hosts and refugees, helping with documents, finding work, supporting people dealing with schools, hospitals and even with their mental health. The work was endless. “The local schools were very helpful, they brought interpreters and some private schools even offered scholarships to children,” adds Jane.  

They have used other churches, but the Methodist church is the best venue for their needs in Salisbury. Valeriy comments, “The Methodist Church did incredible work by allowing us to use their premises and with the help they gave us. The refugees received social, practical and spiritual support.” 
“We have good contact with the authorities, and they all know about the Hub. So, if there is an issue, they know we are the point of contact to go to,” confirms Revd Mark Cheetham, Minister at Salisbury Methodist Church. 

The Hub is quieter nowadays, partly because there are fewer refugees arriving, and partly because the ones established in the Salisbury area are now integrated with jobs or schools. “In the beginning, I came every week and practised the language. I would like to continue but I'm working, and my work schedule is not always suitable for me to come,” regrets Natalia from Kyiv.  

They still offer the same help to new refugees, but also English lessons, cooking and dancing for women to be together and have quality time. There is a WhatsApp group that works 24/7 for people to share questions where whoever has an answer or the ability to help can chip in. “The Hub helped us to speak English and gave us the confidence to understand and respond to letters and forms. We can also come and talk with other people from Ukraine,” adds Regina also from Kyiv. 

Local artists created pieces to mark the first anniversary of the invasion. The Ukrainians decided to fundraise and pay them for their work. They baked and sold the results in the market making £3,000. The artists refused the money and asked to send it to people in need in Ukraine. Another fundraiser at Easter raised a further £3,000. 

The host families are all over the Salisbury area, some are Methodist and some are not. But things have changed, “Finding a new host is very difficult and the local council cannot help them until they have set foot in the UK,” regrets Jane. “There are fewer offers to host a family nowadays, but it does not mean that there are no more refugees in need of housing.” 

What’s next? The Hub undertook a review in April 2023 to see what more could be done. The Hub currently operates on Friday mornings but may be moved to the weekend as more and more Ukrainians have jobs or school to attend and often cannot join. They would also like to set up groups for youth and young adults. They want to be more inclusive and welcome other refugees and everyone who needs help. 


The toolkit for churches responding to the crisis in Ukraine can be found on our website.