The diocese launched the drive to find 50 hosts for Ukrainian refugees at the start of April, hoping to inspire churchgoers and others to open their homes and welcome those fleeing from the Russian invasion.
Now kind-hearted people across south Hampshire and the Isle of Wight have exceeded expectations – with 72 people signing up to the scheme, allowing for 179 Ukrainian refugees to find safety in the UK.
One host said she was moved to take action after seeing news broadcasts of the devastation taking place in Ukraine.
Judy Walker, who will be using her spare bedrooms to house a Ukrainian woman and her 16-year-old daughter, said: ‘Seeing women and children having to choose whether to take the nappies or the cuddly toys or the powdered milk in your only rucksack – as a mother, you put yourself in that position and it feels so sad.
‘We immediately thought that we wanted to host.
‘’We also have the space to give our guests the top floor of our house, with bedrooms and a bathroom, which allows them the dignity of living slightly independently. They can eat with us, or cook for themselves. They’ll have a key, so they can come and go as they please. Of course, none of these refugees are coming willingly – they’ll have experienced complex trauma.’
The 57-year-old praised the diocese and its partner organisation, Citizens UK, for their support as Judy was matched with Olga.
Judy said: ‘We've already had a couple of Zoom calls with Olga and her daughter Daria, and found out something about each other.
“It’s easier for us as we’ve hosted foreign students for more than 20 years, which has been a really positive experience.
‘This will be different from anything else we’ve ever done. But I hope that we can provide safety, dignity and some laughter and joy into their lives.’
The diocese is working in partnership with the charity Citizens UK, which also has partners in Ukraine, Moldova and Poland
Canon Nick Ralph, social responsibility adviser for the Portsmouth diocese, said: ‘We have been thrilled with what has turned out to be an overwhelming and positive response to our initial request for help to find 50 hosts for Ukrainian refugees. Local people all over the diocese have been exceedingly generous.’
Nationwide, dioceses and Citizens UK have recruited 1,000 individuals or families who could host Ukrainian refugees.