Ukrainians mark independence day and holiday activity programme

Cllr Ross Garrod visiting the Ukrainian Independence Day celebrations at New Horizon Centre in Pollards Hill

Refugees and staff at the New Horizon Centre in Pollards Hill recently marked Ukraine Independence Day with a barbeque and meal with national dishes served at it, while children enjoyed taking part in craft activities at an event attended by Council Leader Cllr Ross Garrod.  

Cllr Ross Garrod said: “I was delighted to be able to mark Ukraine Independence Day with some of the refugees who have found safety, shelter and support from Merton residents.  The Council stands shoulder to shoulder with the Ukrainian people against this naked Russian aggression.” 

Throughout the summer, Commonside Trust and the Polish Family Association ran two programmes for Ukrainian children and parents: a Holiday Activity Fund (HAF) scheme for children and young people, and orientation and English language practice for adults.  

Almost 50 young people took part in activities such as sessions with members of the Black Arts Production Theatre, visited the Combination Dance studios in Wimbledon and took part in workshops with art therapists, as well as taking part in fitness and sports activities and attending coding classes, as well as making animations. 

The HAF programme offers free holiday provision including healthy food and enriching activities for children eligible for Free School Meals over Easter, Summer and Christmas holidays. 

Merton has already extended eligibility to free places to children with a social worker or EHCP, young carers, and children of refugees, as well as children on the Ukrainian settlement schemes for our summer HAF. 

On the adult programme, Ukrainians have been helped to learn English, worked alongside volunteers from Mastercard to create CVs, and been taken to job fairs and been guided through applying for employment opportunities – with success for some in the shape of potential job offers.  

With help from Merton Community Transport, groups of Ukrainians enjoyed trips to Bognor Regis, Worthing, Frensham Ponds and Littlehampton. The kind Welcome Team from the RHS Garden at Wisley offered free entry passes and laid on a special picnic for around 80 people.

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