Aid centre for Ukrainians and host families set to open in Dereham
- Credit: Archant
A community hub aimed at providing a safe space for displaced Ukrainians and their hosts is opening in Dereham.
Dereham Ukraine Aid Centre, in Wright's Walk, is set to begin welcoming refugees from 10am on Friday, May 6, when an opening ceremony will take place.
It is located in the former M&Co unit, where people forced to flee their homeland can meet and stock up on items like food and clothes.
The centre will also offer English lessons with the help of tutors from West Suffolk College, as well as a cafe and a play area for children.
Among those to help establish the centre was Leanne Jarman, community champion at the town's Morrisons supermarket.
Alongside other local flagbearers including Ian Odgers, Mrs Jarman has played a key role in Dereham's aid efforts since Russia invaded its western neighbour in February.
"Having got behind the lorries getting donations to Ukraine, we wanted to do more for those coming into our community and their hosts," she said.
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"We were looking at just a small shop with food and clothing, but Dencora [manager of the shopping area] kindly gave us permission to use the M&Co building.
"When we saw how big it was, we realised we could do much more and our idea has gone from strength to strength.
"It's really overwhelming to see how it's turned out and we just can't wait to open. I had this vision and now it's all coming together."
Almost a dozen volunteers are already on board to run the centre, among them Hannah Smith, who lives in Dereham.
She helped with efforts which saw essential supplies collected at Morrisons and the Railway Tavern, and felt compelled to come forward again.
"Dereham's effort so far has been absolutely amazing and we were overwhelmed with donations, so it's wonderful that there is another scheme in place where they can be put to use," added Mrs Smith.
"The place looks incredible - so much better than we ever could have imagined. It's gone from an empty space with nothing in it, to being a proper community hub."
The Ukraine Dereham Aid Centre will be open from 10am to 4pm every Wednesday and Friday.
Volunteers would like to thank all those who have contributed to creating the centre.