Making a world of difference for Ukrainian refugees in the local community

Making a world of difference for Ukrainian refugees in the local community

How a YouthCARE Chaplain and a teacher created a practical welcome program

War and conflict can be very divisive but through tragedy some beautiful things can emerge, like communities coming together to encourage and support one another. The war in Ukraine has also seen displaced people searching for safety. Closer to home, Jody Rynski, a local YouthCARE Chaplain working at Nollamara Primary School, saw an opportunity to help.

Over recent months, Jody had noticed an influx of Ukrainian refugees to Nollamara and decided to offer practical help to support their integration into the community. Speaking with her sister, Jocelyn Bradshaw, who also happens to be a Primary School Teacher, they set about creating a 20-week program, teaching functional English to refugees.

The objectives of the program were clear, provide an opportunity to practice and explore English in a supportive environment enabling people to engage and connect with the broader community.

Many of these newcomers to the community have very little understanding of basic English so the program walks them through tasks such as grocery shopping, catching public transport, communicating with doctors and even how to contact emergency services in a crisis. The program includes time for coffee and conversation after each class, cooking and excursions to explore Kings Park, Fremantle, Elizabeth Quay and the Bell Tower.

“As we all work fulltime, we began on a Saturday morning.  Within 2 weeks we had around 25 volunteers join to assist with the morning tea and other activities/excursions, there are more joining and it is definitely a team effort from like-minded women,” said Jody.

Cooking class using functional English

In addition to the practical support and connection the program provides for refugees, volunteers have also been able to source furniture, clothes, toys, books, school supplies and assist with their housing.

Ukrainian families with children attending the primary school have also been invited to connect with the families at the program.

“My sister has been nominated for a Zonta Women Achievement Award for writing the English program and setting out the 20-week program… formulated around the learning of functional English and (an) introduction to Australian culture, building community links and building capacity to engage and participate in this new environment,” explains Jody.

There is more to a chaplain than meets the eye; their community connections and the networks they build enable them to make a world of difference each and every day in their community.