Football took centre field at the latest summer sports camps for Ukrainian child refugees, organised by The Change Foundation (TCF) in Ditchling and Burgess Hill, Sussex.
Friday 28th July saw England’s Lionesses take on and beat Denmark as the young people at the camp watched and cheered them on, filmed by a news crew from ITV Meridian, who covered the event for the 6 o’clock regional news.
The refugees and TCF Coach Mentors then took the field to play their own football games, alongside art and craft sessions, running races and playground activities.
The event was the 28th sports camp in a series organised by the charity, which uses sport to positively impact the lives of marginalised young people. The first camps were initially delivered in the Polish town of Przemysl last March to support Ukrainian refugees crossing the border to safety. Since then, the charity has been able to work with refugees living in the UK.
Dizzie Howes, founder of the charitable group Hugs4Ukraine, which is active across the county, said: “I originally set it up to cater for basic needs, such as accommodation, clothing, food and medical care.
“I have always supported these camps which offer the children the chance to relax and have fun in a safe environment. They make new friends, speak their own language and enjoy being children.”
TCF focused on Sussex for this event because of the relatively large number of women and children accommodated locally, who can access travel supplied by local volunteers.
According to the latest figures for the UK refugee sponsorship scheme, 2,193 Ukrainian refugees are housed in West Sussex, 1,702 in East Sussex, 453 in Mid Sussex, and 553 in Brighton and Hove with other substantial populations in Crawley, Chichester and Worthing.
Dizzie added: “There are other refugees in more remote villages, so this is the best way the children, who might be in a school almost entirely with English pupils, can meet those from their homeland.”
Viktoriia Berhulova, who came to the UK from Kyiv, attended the sessions with her son, Oleksandr, aged four, and 10-year-old daughter, Mariia.
She said: “When we came here our hearts were full of fear, but the (Sussex) community has shown how strong it is by being so welcoming.”
Olena Kurianova, also from the Ukrainian capital, took her son Zorian, three, and daughter Olia, 11, to Burgess Hill.
She said: “My son likes the range of sports and activities, the fact that there are lots of people and lots of toys for him to play with. People across Sussex offer us wonderful support and the countryside is beautiful. The sea is never far away, and I am very pleased and thankful to be here.”
TCF staff also noted how much more confident the children were, compared to the initial Sussex camps last year.
Dean Lamb, TCF Senior Coach Mentor, said: “As we have worked with broadly the same group of Ukrainian children in the UK having built up great relationships with them. They are just more settled each time we work with them.”
Friday was another historic day for women’s and girls’ sports said Elle Rowley, the charity’s Events and Challenges Manager.
“The Women’s World Cup game showcased that women’s sport has well and truly arrived. Not only are our Lionesses inspiring girls, but they are also inspiring a nation. We are also spoilt with the Roses taking to the netball court in the World Cup in Cape Town soon.
“Every female who has been involved in sport, has been waiting for this time. It is an honour to have the opportunity to keep young people engaging with these historic moments to inspire them to achieve their dreams.”
Written by Nick Ames.