Spring Update

Apologies for the extended delay in getting an update out, it’s been 6 months since we last put an update out via our mailing list (although we have been managing to get out updates on Facebook and X (formerly Twitter).

There are two main reasons for this, the first one being that we still haven’t filled the position of Media Manager within the committee. The main one though is just the sheer amount of work that myself and other committee members have had to put in over the last 6 months. I’ll try and cover most of that in this update, but so much has happened I probably won’t be able to cover it all.

We are looking at expanding the committee to try and spread some of the committee responsibilities, so if you think you can spare the time and would like to get involved please get in touch. As well as a Media Manager we also need to fill the position of Treasurer. Our current, and I have to say quite amazing, treasurer Bruce Sherry is having to step down from his role at the end of the year. It is a position that carries a level of responsibility (especially since the escalation of the war in Ukraine) but we are hopeful that someone suitably qualified might be willing to step in and take on this role.

Edinburgh College and Moving On

I must dedicate this part of the update to Edinburgh College, and to some of the fantastic people that have been instrumental in supporting the children.

Before the children had even arrived in Scotland, Edinburgh College (through the Principal Audrey Cumberford) had offered up a floor at their Milton Road Campus as a possible accommodation option for the Dnipro Kids group.

I don’t think anyone back then would have realised just how instrumental Edinburgh College was going to be in providing the safe haven and support that this, sometimes complex, group of children actually needed. With the unwavering support of Senior Manager Nick Croft, and the watchful eye of Halls Manager Paul McGee, the families were able to live in a safe, warm and comfortable environment, one in which they could receive the support they needed and to make the difficult transition from Ukrainian to Scottish life.

A mention also has to go out for the great resource provided by Edinburgh Council, with excellent support led by Andrew McWhirter, Eric Stitt and Jacqui McAlpine, who were no strangers to visiting the “mini-Ukraine” that Edinburgh College provided for the families. Eric and Jacqui actually headed a 24 hour social care package that was put in place for our care-experienced children, many of whom required special needs support.

And if we are talking about the support for our children, it would be remiss of me not to mention Nicola Downie, Katie Mcleod and Hannah Dellanzo at Castlebrae Secondary School and Clare Langley at Castleview Primary School. Their support for the children, and their assistance in helping with their integration into schooling (and the wider community), went above and beyond their usual responsibilities.

Having that ability to have the whole group in one place was so important in the first year, and with everyone mentioned above working tirelessly around the social care, schooling, medical support and the wellbeing of the children, we were able to make that transition into life in Scotland. A transition that is still ongoing.

So we now get to why we are thanking so many amazing people …

As amazing as the Edinburgh College accommodation was, and how critical it was in putting the required support in place, it wasn’t a family home. I’m sure that everyone involved with supporting these amazing children over the last 2 years would be the first to agree, as sad as it might be to them, that the best environment for the children is a loving, caring family home that the house mothers were used to providing for them. And last summer this is exactly what the Dnipro Kids committee started working on. However, how do you find a property that is able to provide that when the family group includes 8 or 9 children! Tara Clark and Fiona Clements from the Scottish Government started off the search for properties, but it wasn’t easy for such a large group. 

All throughout its time supporting Ukrainian children, the Dnipro Kids charity seems to have been blessed with luck and good fortune .. and this was no more apparent than when we received a message from Alan, a Hibs supporting tradesman working on a development at Craigmillar just a few streets away from Castlebrae School! A former community hall was being turned into two 5 bedroom houses, and would it be of interest to the Ukrainian families! We jumped at the chance, and snapped them up straight away, providing us with the first two homes needed for our families. We then had Elaine Ritchie and Jennifer Kent, from the Perth and Kinross Council housing team offering two properties in the centre of Perth, and with social care support from Linda Richards and Roddy McDonald we had two more properties secured!

There was obviously a huge amount of work that had to go into preparing the properties, and supporting them during the settling in period, but they have now been in their new homes for a few months and all is going well so far.

However, we still have two large families at the college, so if anyone reading this knows of any properties that might be suitable please, please, get in touch.

Independence Day

At the end of August we had the second Ukraine Independence Day event, held again at the North Inch in Perth. With a little bit more time to organise, we were able to make it a much bigger event than the previous year.

As well as having Ukrainian acts performing on the main stage all afternoon, we also had the Ukrainian Ambassador, the Edinburgh based Ukrainian Consul and the Provost of Perth attending!

Buses travelled to the event from Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow, and everyone we spoke to said it was a fantastic event and amazing that we had managed to pull in so many Ukrainians from so many different parts of Scotland.

That may have been partly due to the free Ukrainian food that we had on offer. Dnipro Kids funded a stand at the event that was serving borscht, varenyky and other Ukrainian delights throughout the event. With a special mention to the mums that spent 3 days preparing, cooking and serving the food!

Plans are currently underway to ensure the event this year, on the 24th of August, will be even bigger than last year’s.

Trip to Ukraine

In November Dnipro Kids chairman, Steven Carr, travelled into Ukraine once again to visit the children and families that had chosen to remain in Ukraine.

During the visit he also met with local government officials, to discuss some of the issues that mothers and children were encountering in Scotland around schooling, college and Ukrainian passports.

The meetings were very productive, and some good contacts were made.

There was also a meeting with the Puzir orphanage family, to ensure the children were still supported, and that Santa would visit at Christmas.

Christmas and Birthday Gifts

Many of you may have seen the news that Ukraine has now officially adopted December the 25th as their official Christmas Day. Previously, as were many Dnipro Kids events over the years, it was celebrated on the Orthodox date of the 7th of January.

As always we made sure that Santa visited our Dnipro Kids families, whether in Scotland, Ukraine or elsewhere, and every child received at least one gift from their Christmas wish list. Watches, scooters, remote controlled cars, remote controlled drones with cameras, dolls, backpacks, power banks, wireless earbuds, football boots, musical instruments, were but a few of the things asked for.

There have also been many birthdays since the last update .. so here is a selection of photos of the children with their gifts.

Christmas Day at Easter Road

On 25th of December we all were invited by Hibernian Community Foundation to Hibernian FC’s Easter Road stadium for Christmas lunch. The group had a fantastic time together on a special day of the year, meeting football players, receiving gifts and just enjoying delicious food together.

Pantomime Trip

Everyone enjoyed the Edinburgh Christmas theatre performance last year and this year everyone definitely wanted to go again. Between Christmas and New Year, the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh exceeded expectations with its Christmas 2023 production of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. While the adults anticipated a classical interpretation, the performance turned out to be absurdly amazing and wonderfully unusual. The children, in particular, were enthralled by the fun and unique experience at the theatre. The tale of Gerda’s quest to rescue her brother, Kay, from the Snow Queen’s icy grasp was brought to life in a festive and frosty spectacle, featuring a magical world of snow, ice palaces, and heartwarming adventure. The unexpected twists and imaginative presentation left both kids and adults thoroughly entertained and enchanted.

Royal Botanic Garden

Also as part of a Christmas holidays treat for the kids, Dnipro Kids organised an opportunity for each family to take a trip to the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh to enjoy its beautiful Christmas lights extravaganza. While the families attended on several different days, each time the kids were absolutely amazed, their faces aglow with the magical lights, the joy of spotting Santa Claus, and the overall wonderful festive atmosphere. The stroll through the illuminated gardens became a cherished family moment, filled with laughter and warmth.

Each step was accompanied by the delightful aroma of hot chocolate, adding a cosy touch to the experience. It was a perfect evening for families to come together, creating lasting bonds amidst the twinkling lights and holiday cheer.

Scouts Deliver Ukrainian Books

In January we had another visit from Denis Ougrin and some of his scout group from London. Here is Denis’ trip report ..

”The four Ukrainian scouts (plastuny) from London and Stoke-on-Trent were Ulana Kravchenko, Sofia Bilozir, Pavlo Diachenko and Dennis Ougrin We embarked on a heartfelt mission to deliver Ukrainian books and intricately embroidered shirts to Ukrainian orphans currently residing in Edinburgh and Perth. Fueled by a sense of compassion and a desire to make a positive impact, we planned and executed this endeavour. The journey and the purchase of the books and shirts was sponsored by Clinical Partners under the leadership of Barny Guthrie.”

The journey began with the scouts carefully selecting a collection of Ukrainian books that not only showcased the rich cultural heritage but also catered to various age groups, ensuring the orphans would find joy and education within the pages. Additionally, the scouts acquired beautifully crafted embroidered shirts, each a symbol of Ukrainian craftsmanship and a gesture of solidarity with their fellow countrymen. The books and the shirts were purchased by Anna Oleksyn, also a Ukrainian scout, in Lviv, Ukraine.

Upon reaching Edinburgh, the scouts worked with charity worker Natalie Radchenko and Dnipro Kids chairman Steven Carr to create a seamless distribution plan. Their dedication and enthusiasm resonated with the Ukrainian orphans, bringing a sense of connection and warmth to their lives. As the scouts handed out the books and shirts, smiles and expressions of gratitude filled the room, creating a poignant moment of cultural exchange and understanding. After a hearty dinner, the scouts stayed at the Ukrainian home in Edinburgh , courtesy of Hannah Hawryluk.”

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