Isle of Wight City Council welcomes Ukrainian refugees to its home

Isle of Wight Councilor for Totland and Colwell Chris Jarman is among the leaders of the prosecution.

He welcomed two Ukrainian families to his family home and took them to Walk the Wight over the weekend.

Chris says the Isle of Wight’s response has been “wonderful” and has praised local businesses and residents for making offers of help and support.

Displaced Ukrainians with Chris Jarman during Walk the Wight.

“I think I was one of the very first on the island to get registered,” Chris said.

“I managed to go through all the applications and get a lot of other people to push the applications and get them all verified very quickly.

Isle of Wight County Press: Displaced Ukrainians during Walk the Wight.Displaced Ukrainians during Walk the Wight.

“Many Ukrainians who applied and were available for funding were very nervous about going to the cities because there was so much discussion about the possibility of biological and nuclear attacks.”

Why do Ukrainians choose the Isle of Wight?

“Countryside areas became very popular,” said Chris, who lives in Freshwater.

“A lot of those we have here originally looked at West Wales and I think the Isle of Wight was really the closest bet.

Isle of Wight County Press: Displaced Ukrainians enjoy a garden party at Chris Jarman's.  Image contains Cllr Debbie Andre.Displaced Ukrainians enjoy a garden party at Chris Jarman’s. Image contains Cllr Debbie Andre.

“We are such a beautiful place, who wouldn’t love to come here?

“Now as they settle down they turn to their friends and family and say look we’ve arrived here on the Isle of Wight – the people here are tremendously friendly and supportive.”

Who supports Ukrainian refugees moving to the Isle of Wight?

“There’s a really big package of support here, supported of course by East Cowes-based MAD-AID,” said Chris.

“A lot of Ukrainians arrive almost every day and we help them as much as we can.

“We managed to do the first doctor registration last week and that then generates their NHS letter giving them their NHS number.

Isle of Wight County Press: Displaced Ukrainians enjoy a garden party at Chris Jarman's.Displaced Ukrainians enjoy a garden party at Chris Jarman’s.

“That’s then a gateway to dentistry or optometrists or anything else they might really need.

“We also have bank accounts opened by Nationwide, which has worked like an absolute dream, for both adult and child accounts.

“The next phase is, above all, schooling. We’ve been to a couple of schools and they arrange the open house and the school uniforms and then it’s on to the job center.

Isle of Wight County Press: Displaced Ukrainians enjoy a garden party at Chris Jarman's.  (1)Displaced Ukrainians enjoy a garden party at Chris Jarman’s. (1)

“The first group is going to the job center tomorrow (Wednesday).

“They are remarkably hardworking people – the Ukrainians – and they are very willing to work.

“I love that. I love their focus and enthusiasm for work; this desire to be independent and get back on their feet.”

Was it difficult to bring Ukrainian refugees to the Isle of Wight?

“It’s going to be a lot easier — the visa application systems seem to have at least shifted into third gear,” Chris said.

“When the first batch arrived here, they received a very warm welcome. It was a tremendous effort involving many, many people.

“We have two families here who live in our house. Both are mothers with their children.

Isle of Wight County Press: Displaced Ukrainians enjoy a garden party at Chris Jarman's.Displaced Ukrainians enjoy a garden party at Chris Jarman’s.

“They’ve been here a little over two weeks now.

“We’ve had others who, through other local families, managed to get in as well.

“Last weekend we brought all the early arrivals together with their host families and potential host families for a meeting in our garden.

“They all prepared a buffet for us – Ukrainian specialty which was very nice; very different dishes and a thank you cake.

“We’ll do that again next Sunday.”

How many Ukrainian refugees are currently living on the Isle of Wight?

“As of last Tuesday, more than 50 Ukrainians are already here on the island, and many more are in the pipeline.

“Those were the pioneers, and now you see the numbers growing. It’s really wonderful.

“We spoke to local businesses. Adrian’s Bike Shop in the village was a real hero.

Isle of Wight County Press: Ukrainians take part in Walk the Wight.Ukrainians participating in Walk the Wight.

“The West Wight Sports and Community Center is also offering you a free membership for a few months.

“Many local companies are reporting with offers of help, but also residents.
“We have quite a few elderly widows who have come forward who may be living alone in a three bedroom bungalow.

“Most of the people who come are mothers with children.”

How are the children doing on the Isle of Wight?

“The Isle of Wight Computer Club is busy refurbishing old laptops and iPads and giving away items that the newcomers will find particularly useful for the children,” said Chris.

“Our kids here got up at 6 this morning and did some online exams in Ukraine.

“In a few days they will start school here.

“We also engaged the adults with Isle of Wight College last week to help advance their English.

“The college intends to run a very intensive course for the younger children over the summer to improve their level of English so that school will be much easier.

“Looking back, it’s amazing how quickly things have evolved.

“It’s a real combination of the Council, the Riverside Centre, a group of us individuals and all the companies.

“It helped that we didn’t have too many in the beginning.

“By building it in stages, we’ve had more time to set up the systems and they’re not overloaded on day one.”

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