Child refugees enjoy fun in the sun at summer camp… thanks to our generous readers
- Mail Force donations have paid for thousands of refugees to enjoy summer camp
- Many Ukrainian children are now making new friends after settling in the UK
- At King’s Summer Camp in Bradford, youngsters beamed while playing together
Ukrainian children are enjoying a carefree time in the English sun and putting the horrors of war behind them – thanks to the generosity of Mail readers.
They were traumatised and frightened as they were forced from their homeland by Vladimir Putin‘s invasion.
But thanks to amazing Mail Force donations – which have paid for thousands of summer camp places for refugees – many children are now making new friends after settling in the UK.
At the King’s Summer Camp in Bradford, youngsters ran across a football pitch beaming with joy.
Among them were Alana Shcherbakova, 11, and her friends Adriana Mynzera, 15, and ten-year-old Viktoriia Stroganova. Alana arrived in the UK in April with her mum, Olha, from Sumy in northeastern Ukraine, which was shelled by Russian troops at the start of the conflict.
Play time: Alana, Adriana and Viktoriia enjoy the sun at Bradford Grammar School
‘I miss everything about my country,’ she says. ‘It felt very strange here when I first came, and I found it hard. I didn’t want to leave. My dream is that one morning I wake up and my mum tells me the war is finished and I can go home. But I love being at the camp because it helps take my mind off things.’
Adriana and Viktoriia, are cousins staying with an uncle and aunt who live in Bradford. Adriana is from Reni, from where she and her mother Kristina, who worked in a factory, fled with Viktoriia, her mother Maria and 12- year-old brother Artem, who lived in Odesa.
‘It was a very hard decision for my mother, but we were scared because of the war and I was very happy to come to England,’ Adriana said.
Olivia Firth, 24, the camp manager, said: ‘We’re all amazed by how resilient they are and how quickly they have fitted in. It helps that the other British children who come here have made them feel so welcome – they’ve really thought about what they must have been through.’
Mail Force launched its Ukraine Refugees Appeal within days of Russia’s invasion, and it became the fastest newspaper fundraiser in history. Donations flooded in, kick-started with £500,000 from the Mail’s parent company, DMGT, at the personal request of Lord and Lady Rothermere.
Ukrainian refugee children enjoy themselves at a Premier education Summer Camp at Lower Peover C of E Primary School in Cheshire
HOW TO APPLY
Do you know a Ukrainian family whose child would like to attend a summer camp?
Go to www.mailforcecharity.co.uk
Browse any of the providers listed to find camp locations and dates that suit.
Note that all camps are day-visit only, not residential, and transport is not included.
At a Premier Education camp at Lower Peover Primary School, in Cheshire, Ivan Svidlo and Georgy Popienov, both aged five, have grown into their surroundings despite a shaky start. Premier’s manager, Neil Hetherington, 35, said: ‘The boys were so frightened and confused on the first day of the summer school that they refused to let go of their mother’s hands and cried and cried. But after a couple of days they couldn’t wait to get here and just waved their mums off at the school gates without looking back.
‘The English children have been exceptionally kind to them. Obviously they don’t understand why Ukrainian children are here but they are intrigued and love to play with them and help them adjust to English life.’
All staff have cue cards with Ukrainian words such as ‘hello’, ‘drink’, ‘hurt’ and ‘tired’ to help them communicate, and there are signs and pictures to help the parents tell staff what they want.
As Ivan and Georgy enjoyed archery, dodgeball, running races and other games, it was hard to distinguish them from other children leading more settled lives.
‘That’s what sport does,’ Mr Darby said. ‘It is a universal language that breaks down barriers.’