Over the coming months, BUC News will be featuring the plans, initiatives and interventions across the British Union Conference (BUC) as our Church community responds to the developing Ukrainian crisis.
This week, we are interviewing Sharon Platt-McDonald, BUC Director for Adventist Community Services, Health, and Women's Ministries.
SD – Sharon, can you share with our readers what you have been doing so far regarding our Church's response to the refugee crisis?
SPM – Firstly, I want to acknowledge our leaders and members' collaborative support and contribution across the BUC as we discuss the best practices going forward. We aim to ensure those fleeing their homeland will be stabilised, acclimatised and integrated into UK life. We continue to seek God's wisdom as we do so.
Our National Committee meets every week to address the strategic and operational interventions in our preparatory measures to welcome the new arrivals to the UK. We are creating a series of interventions as we prepare for the refugees and support host families who will accommodate them.
SD – I am aware that you have developed a specific model to address the holistic needs of the refugees. Can you tell us what those entail?
SPM – Yes, this is an integrative model identifying ten specific areas of interventions to support the diverse needs of the refugees. It is an operational framework that engages a multi-agency approach to ensure we utilise the expertise of a variety of professionals and support groups. We will be addressing the following needs: Physiological, Psychological, General Health, Personal Care, Financial Support, Social Interaction, Spiritual Care, Educational Provision, Benefits, and Voluntary Agencies engagement. These areas have been developed into an infographic to make them more visible.
We will create a 'Care Plan' version of the infographic for Ukrainian families who have become known to us. This version can then be adapted for subsequent hosts accommodating refugees, with the input of their host refugee family members.
SD – Let's unpack these areas in more detail, commencing with the first 4.
SPM – Here is what we are developing:
- Physiological – This need deals with basic needs such as food, clothes, general physical conditions, etc. We will be working with local organisations and charities to ensure the new arrivals feel comfortable and can function sufficiently daily.
- Psychological – This will entail counselling interventions to provide emotional support and address any significant psychological conditions that may require referral to other agencies. We are investigating trauma care support, and we have identified professional agencies that will provide the necessary care. We are also looking to deliver training to our volunteers and host families around psychological support. Several agencies and resources can help us prepare in this area. Here is one of them: https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/international/humanitarian-resources/asylum-seeker-and-refugee-mental-health
- General Health – We are looking at Covid testing, health assessments, and well-being checks, which GP surgeries can provide once they register with them. As we advance, we will also be offering continuing health screening via our Health Ministries departments used to undertaking Health Expos to the community.
- Personal Care – We are compiling a list of cosmetic and domestic products and other essential items for their comfort and daily needs.
SD – The other six aspects, I would suspect, requires collaboration with other agencies. How would you go about that?
SPM – We will be using the Department of Health and Social Care Directory that lists the various available agencies to support the refugees as they transition to UK life. This can be found at Welcome! Guide for Ukrainians arriving in the UK (publishing.service.gov.uk)
- FinancialSupport – Access to finances and bank cards is key to their transition and independent living, even whilst being hosted in homes under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme. Again, specialist financial agencies will be advising on this.
- Social Interaction – To support the best levels of communication, we will be engaging interpreters and local translation services where necessary. Identifying our guests' leisure interests and hobbies enables them to gain some level of continuity with their interests. We are also looking at assigning what I call 'Friendship buddies' to befriend them and accompany them on various visits and outings to help acclimatise them to UK Life. We also want to assist in maintaining their Ukrainian culture, so currently assessing relevant materials and resources to enable this to happen.
- Spiritual Care – Once we know where the refugees are placed, we encourage our local Community Services leaders to work with their local councils and health authorities. They will be reporting on the new arrivals. Some of our churches have already been made aware of Ukrainian families moving into their areas. This past Sabbath, we had enquired from one of the Missions where members were arranging transport to take the Ukrainian family to church. The NEC has been instrumental in sending our letters to pastors, preparing them for the new arrivals. We hope to assign 'Spiritual guardians' to support the Adventist Ukrainians and others who request spiritual care support.
- Educational Provision – Our BUC Education Director – Lorraine McDonald, is doing excellent work in liaising with the counterpart in the Ukrainian Union Conference and working with our Adventist schools to prepare for our Ukrainian guests. We are engaging our Adventist schools in our planning and preparation to ensure that we are adequately equipped to meet educational needs and learning objectives.
- Benefits – Where applicable, we are exploring any available funding for refugees to support their transition to the UK and meet their daily living requirements.
- Voluntary Agencies – Liaising with local refugee groups and other support networks will be vital to ensuring additional support and addressing diverse needs.
SD – I understand that you want to engage with our Adventist members in a 'Volunteering' capacity to support the refugees. Can you tell us more about that?
SPM – Yes, Dr Beatrice Kastrati is leading on the Volunteer Skills Inventory, where we ask members to register their details, skills, expertise etc. This will enable us to know where our skillset as an organisation lies. It will highlight who has expertise in translation, befriending, childcare, etc. and other skills that we can call on in caring for our guests. This will also help our host families opening their homes under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme.
We're asking as many people as possible to sign up via the following link:
SD – Thank you, Sharon, for updating us on what our Church is currently doing to address this humanitarian crisis. We look forward to more reports in the coming months.
NB: Please download the PDF below for the infographics.
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