HELP AT HAND: A support group at McNabs Bookshop is helping Ukrainian refugees connect and access help and information
HELP AT HAND: A support group at McNabs Bookshop is helping Ukrainian refugees connect and access help and information

A SUPPORT group set up to help Ukrainian refugees in Teesdale connect with each other is proving a big hit.
McNabs bookshop and cafe owner Emma Rowell set up the weekly meet ups to provide a central location for Ukrainian refugees to meet and access information and support.
Ms Rowell said: “The reason we started was because refugees are being hosted in different places with families and they wouldn’t necessarily know how to get in touch with each other.
“The meet-up gives a central location for them and host families to come to each week. If they have a problem, they know they have somewhere they can reach out to. It’s quite informal.”
Thanks to volunteer help, the support group has been helping the recently arrived refugees with such things as enrolling children in schools and getting national insurance numbers.
Ms Rowell added: “We’ve just set up the language course with Judy Collins and that starts this week. We’ve also got another TEFL teacher, Christine Hartas, coming along as well. We have lots of complicated Home Office issues that need sorting out, so we have enlisted the help of a northern MP, Mary Foy, who has experience with that.”
Another major issue is transport so refugees can access the support group, which is appealing for people to help out. Ms Foy said: “Durham county councillor Sam Townsend is taking the lead in trying to find some resources for travel for us, but we do need volunteer drivers. It wouldn’t be a daily occurrence but volunteers would need to be DBS checked.”
The TCR Hub, in Barnard Castle, is also going to be providing allotment space for refugees to grow vegetables.
The language class starts on Wednesday, July 20, meeting at McNabs at 3pm, with the weekly meet up from 10.30am every Thursday.
Refugees Raxana, husband Mohamed and eight-month-old daughter Sofia, from the Donetsk region of Ukraine, arrived in Teesdale in May and has been overwhelmed by the support on offer.
The family was on holiday in Cairo, in Egypt, when Russia invaded and have not returned to Ukraine.
Raxana said: “When the first war in 2014 happened we stayed as long as we could but we were made to leave and moved to Kursk. When the second invasion came, we’d been staying with Mohamed’s parents in Cairo.
“We’ve been calling my parents who are still there and because my father is of fighting age, he is not allowed to leave and my mother won’t leave if he can’t. They are still okay but my friend was shot and died.
“We have heard our properties are badly damaged, but we are really thankful for all the help and the support since we arrived.
“Most of the Ukrainian people didn’t expect this kind of support. We’re really thankful for everything.
“It is a beautiful area and it is safe and that is the most important thing.”
A Justgiving fundraiser has been launched with the aim of raising £5,000 to help families adapt. For more information or to donate visit