New support hub creates community for people arriving from Ukraine

A new support hub for Ukrainian refugees has opened in Dereham baptist Church. Some of the refugees

A new support hub for Ukrainian refugees has opened in Dereham Baptist Church. Some of the refugees gather to chat over tea and cake during the first event. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

A Ukrainian who has been living in Norfolk for the past five years is hoping to build a strong sense of community as her town opens a new support centre.

The Ukraine Support Hub at Dereham’s Baptist Church launched on April 22, and will run for the foreseeable future. The hub is bringing everyone together, from people preparing to welcome refugees fleeing from the conflict, to those who just want to help where they can.

There were already some Ukrainians at the hub, as they begin to enter the country.

A new support hub for Ukrainian refugees has opened in Dereham baptist Church.Inhrit Chahlei and Na

A new support hub for Ukrainian refugees has opened in Dereham Baptist Church. Inhrit Chahlei (left) and Natalia Chireazieva (right). Byline: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

One of them already here is Inhrit Chahlei, who arrived three weeks ago from Chernivtsi.

Mrs Chahlei and her son left the city in Western Ukraine, and her mother, brother and husband, to come and live with her sister-in-law, Natalia Chireazieva.

Miss Chireazieva has lived in Dereham since 2015 and works in a care home. Her colleagues came to the Baptist church and saw about the hub, and she wanted to help.

A new support hub for Ukrainian refugees has opened in Dereham baptist Church. Some of the refugees

A new support hub for Ukrainian refugees has opened in Dereham Baptist Church. Some of the refugees gather to chat over tea and cake during the first event. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

“We are living two lives, one in Dereham, and then another when watching the news and spending time on the phone with family,” she said.

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“We want to be together in some way and to help in any way that we can.

“I want to help those coming over to Dereham at the hub through the language I speak.

“We need these people, who together we can build a sense of community with one another.”

The hub was a collective idea from members of the Baptist church, and the wider community.

A new support hub for Ukrainian refugees has opened in Dereham baptist Church.Reverend Nigel Bayley

A new support hub for Ukrainian refugees has opened in Dereham Baptist Church. Reverend Nigel Bayley, Keith Mersh and Julie Mann. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

They include Julie Mann, office administrator for the church, Keith Mersh, chairman of Love Dereham, and Gavin Wolfenden and Leanna Jarman from Morrisons.

Mrs Mann and her husband Derek are currently preparing to welcome a Ukrainian into their home. She felt that this hub was needed to support all those involved in the effort since applying three weeks ago.

“We wanted that space to support hosts and the guests coming over,” she said.

“We want to create an area where people can meet one another, and speak their language.”

A new support hub for Ukrainian refugees has opened in Dereham baptist Church. Some of the refugees

A new support hub for Ukrainian refugees has opened in Dereham Baptist Church. Some of the refugees gather to chat over tea and cake during the first event. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

The team behind the hub also includes Ian Odgers, who has become a key figure of Dereham’s Ukraine support.

Mr Odgers said seeing people arrive has made it all more real: “It is a bit overwhelming, it feels more real now than ever before.

“These clothes I have with me are for people coming here today, where just last week they were a name on a screen."


A new support hub for Ukrainian refugees has opened in Dereham baptist Church.Gavin Wolfenden who i

A new support hub for Ukrainian refugees has opened in Dereham Baptist Church. Gavin Wolfenden who is helping match local families with Ukrainian refugees. - Credit: Sonya Duncan


A new support hub for Ukrainian refugees has opened in Dereham baptist Church.Byline: Sonya Duncan

A new support hub for Ukrainian refugees has opened in Dereham Baptist Church. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

A new support hub for Ukrainian refugees has opened in Dereham baptist Church.Byline: Sonya Duncan

A new support hub for Ukrainian refugees has opened in Dereham Baptist Church.