Get prepared to host a refugee
As a host, you will have a few responsibilities to your Ukrainian family. Although the government pretty much advises that you can apply and forget, I don’t think this is a particularly good approach. You obviously care enough to want to help so I am sure you’d be happy for a few suggestions on how to prepare for your guest’s arrival. I have been in touch with a lovely guy named Gary via Facebook who put together this guide for hosts.
One thing mentioned in Gary’s list is a welcome pack. I had this same idea and decided to write down a few bits that I thought would be useful. I will break it down into a few sections to make it easier to follow.
Welcome pack ideas
Before you buy anything it would be a good idea to speak with the person you are sponsoring first and make sure you know what they have already. There are a number of people suggesting on social media that buying things for the people you will host might be rude because they have their own money – I think that most people would be thankful to arrive at their sponsor’s home and have everything they need to be able to rest for at least a day or two. And just so you know, I’ve added affiliate links to Amazon items. This means if you use the link we could earn a little money, but the item will not cost you any more than it would otherwise.
Adult welcome pack
- A welcome booklet like ones you get when you visit a holiday home. I have made a list below of what would be good to include in this.
- A phone and/or sim card for the UK. Maybe both if they want to use their phone to keep their Ukrainian number live. (Vodafone or 3 have free Sims with data for refugees). I’d first ask anyone you know if they have a spare unblocked phone you can have and if not then check the cheap smartphones on Amazon.
- Any welcome packs from council or government.
- A few local delicacies or snacks e.g. shortbread, irn bru and tablet for those coming to Scotland (plenty Scottish snacks ideas on Amazon).
- House keys so they can come and go when they need to. You can actually get keys cut online now by just sending in a photograph. It would be so sweet to add a Ukraine keyring to the key.
- Phone charger if they need one (UK plug). You might not know what phone they use and with lagnuage barriers and the amount of travel they are doing to flee right now you may not get an answer. If that is the case then get a cable with multiple charger types.
- Plug adapter if they are bringing phone, laptop etc. This is a good guide as to the plugs used in Ukraine. We travel a lot and we use these travel adapter plugs because you can pretty much plug anything into it and change the output to any kind of plug. Alternatively, you might want an extension with Ukrainian outlets.
- Sleeping eye mask. Amazon have lots of sleeping eye mask options.
- Ear plugs if they now have to share a room, or simply to offer a better sleep. You can get really cheap ear plugs for sleeping but if they have been around bombs then you might find that loud sounds are triggering even during the day. I recommend some ear plugs that allow them to be able to hear clearly while making loud sounds less alerting. There are two main brands (who are highly recommended in the ADHD/Autism community) offering these that I know of. They are Loop and Flare. I’ve personally tried Flare and I think they work well, but move a little in the ear. I hear Loop are the best.
- Slippers. Not a necessity but such a comfort. I like the kind of slippers you can nip outside in.
- Sewing repairs kit. You can get a simple sewing kit or go for something more fancy like the Coquimbo Mini Sewing Kit. To be honest, both are reasonably priced.
- Hand sanitizer. I’d recommend a large bottle for use at home and also a personal bottle to be able to take in their bag. Covid is still very much a conern in the UK and Scotland is seeing really high rates of infection right now.
- Face masks (covid style). You can opt for disposable face masks or if you want to be more environmentally friendly you can go for washable face masks. It might be useful to translate any guidance on the use of masks for them to read too.
- Any paperwork you are aware they might need to do e.g. council, school, driving license, doctors, charities.
- Reusable water bottle. More people could easily mean more plastic. I’d suggest a metal water bottle that can be used over and over again. I am not sure if Ukrainians drink tap water back home but another idea would be writing a little note with the information about how it is safe to drink tap water here in the UK.
- Reusable carrier bags. These reusable bags are so handy and take up barely any space in a hangbag or backpack.
- Guide book. You could actually add a little guide book for the country or area you live in.
Washbag for adults
I have and highly recommend this hanging wash bag on Amazon. We have them for travel but they’re great for small bathrooms too.
I used these section hooks to hang them off the tiles in the bathroom as we don’t have a lot of space.
- Toothbrush and toothpaste if they have a separate bathroom.
- Face mask. They’ve had a long journey, it’s just a little something to encourage some down-time. These aloe vera face masks are exactly what I mean.
- Moisturizer. Get something small, maybe a travel-sized one. You won’t know what they like yet but a little something to be able to treat their skin after days or travel would be a kind gesture.
- Shower gel and shampoo, and conditioner if the bathroom isn’t shared with host (otherwise maybe you can make a picture list of these with Ukranian translations on).
- Hair Ties.
- Hair brush.
A lot of the items for a washbag can be found cheap in shops like B&M, Home Bargains, supermarkets, and pound shops.
Child welcome pack
- School bag. It is likely they won’t have anything for attending school. They may have a backpack but it could be damaged or dirty from so much travel. There are so many school bags to choose from. Try to look for one with a side puch for a bottle because most schools ask that children bring their own reusable bottle.
- Pencils and a pencil case will be so helpful for children age 5 and above. Pencils are cheap and like school bags there are many pencil cases to choose from.
- Notebook. Schools will supply jotters but I thought a little notebook might be a nice touch. Maybe they want to write down their feelings or draw pictures.
- Colouring in book with crayons or pencils. I would check the physical shops for these because online they can cost much more.
- School uniform. Speak to the school about their uniform policy. The best deals are usually in Asda or Matalan.
- Lunch box. Although the child may eat school meals a lunch box is handy because they will be asked to bring snacks for break time.
- Water bottle or sippy cup. This depends on the age of the child. School policy in Scotland is to bring a reusable water bottle that can be refilled as and when needed. The best bottle we have found so far is this style. For smaller children a sippy cup is better.
- Hand sanitizer. Same as with adults, I recommend a large bottle for use at home and also a personal bottle to be put in the school bag.
- WiFi code if they have their own phone or tablet.
- Some small toys or a teddy.
- Books. Ask friends or check the charity shops.
- Ukrainian books (eBay seems to be best for this but Amazon also have Ukrainian kids books).
- If they don’t know English some flashcards or my first words in English books would be helpful. These aren’t as easy to find in supermarkets but you can get flashcards online and stores like TK Maxx are a good bet.
Washbag for kids
- Toothbrush and kids toothpaste. Children need different toothpaste than adults. In Scotland, the children get this handed out in school with toothbrushes too. It’s expensive online so check local stores.
- Shower gel/bubble bath.
- Hair ties and clips for girls. Local stores are best for these.
- Vitamin gummies. In the UK the government advises that all children aged 6 months to 5 years have a daily vitamin. I’ve found that gummy vitamins are best because they taste just like sweets.
For those arriving with babies
- Nappies. The cheapest place to get nappies is Aldi usually. Asda is comparable. You’ll need to know the babies weight to get the correct size.
- Wipes. I bulk buy my baby wipes on Amazon. This has worked out cheapest for me and I won’t run out quickly.
- Sudocrem. Or the likes. Superdrug has a good own-brand cream like Sudocrem or you can buy a Sudocrem kit online.
- Baby shampoo. Again I got this from Superdrug.
- Baby bath gel. Superdrug own brand is good.
- Calpol. This is just handy to have at home incase it is needed. You can get Calpol in a bottle, Calpol in sachets and Calpol for children age 6 and over. My brother-in-law recently got us a giant bottle of calpol from one of the supermarkets. Boots also do an own-brand paracetamol just like Calpol.
- Teething supplies if the baby is at that age. This usually begins about 6 months and can last up until 33 months old.
- Baby moisturizer. I recommend Aveeno for babies if the baby has any kind of skin sensitivities.
- Formula and bottles. This is all personal preference but what I can say is Aldi is cheapest for formula at almost half of the price of any other brands. It is called Mamia and comes in two stages accoring to age. Tommee Tippee is one of the most popular brands for bottles in the UK and they also make setrilisers and the perfect prep machine which makes perfectly warm and safe to drink bottles in seconds!
- Sterilising tablets. Sterilising tablets are good if the Mother is coming with some bottles already.
- Dummies. Check if the baby uses them. It is always good to have a spare. They come in different sizes and shapes.
- Pram/buggy. I’d ask on Facebook for anyone getting rid of one. There are always buggies going and people are desperate to help the Ukrainian refugees in any way they can right now.
- Tommee tippee grooming kit. An essential for parents the kit contains nail clippers, thermometer, scissors and so much more.
You might want to also include vitamins for a pregnant woman or a woman who is breastfeeding along with the guidance in the UK. This should contain folic acid. In the UK women can get these vitamins for free through the Healthy Start Scheme. It is not clear yet if Ukrainian women in the UK will be eligible for the same service.
What to include in a welcome booklet
In our guesthouse in the Isle of Lewis, the owner had left a booklet they had made with absolutely everything you might need to know during your stay there. I would recommend putting it in a folder with plastic files or even in a Flexi display book.
- WiFi code and the WiFi network name.
- Emergency numbers (in forestry we use a template to show all of the numbers relevant to our current site) I found this free printable which should save you time.
- Maps of the town, local area, the streets nearby. I am not sure exactly what maps you might need but I am sure you will have a good idea of what to include. The easiest thing to do would be to screenshot your town on Google maps and then print it. Learn how to take a screenshot here.
- Suggestions of things to do in your town, nearby, nearest big city. You can probably use Google to help you by searching ‘things to do in <town name>’ and writing down the best suggestions in a word document and printing that you. You could print the article itself but it will print pictures, adverts and links too which could be confusing.
- Bus timetable for any local buses especially any important routes.
- Instructions for household items such as dishwasher, washing machine, shower etc.
- Important telephone numbers (yours, the school, doctors etc) printout. Again I’ve found another free template for this online and you can get a copy here.
- Takeaway menus and perhaps a list of your recommendations. If you can’t get menus a list with telephone numbers on it and any websites they have would work.
- House rules – if there are any. Another free template you can use here. This template is to be edited in Canva. Canva is free and easy to use and actually have a lot of their own templates.
- Recycling information including bin days. It might be worth having the information on what goes in each bin translated so it is understandble to your guest.
- Your contact information (I’d make a seperate sheet for this so it is easy to find), you might also want your guest to fill in one so you have their information to hand should you need it. Include any work numbers they might need incase of emergency when you are out.
- House telephone number and address on a card that they can carry with them. This is helpful for when they go to sign up to doctors, job centre etc. Worth laminating if you have the machine to do so.
- Printed and laminated WiFi log in cards for each guest especially for those who are arriving as seperate groups and are staying in different rooms.
- Heating instructions.
- Any codes if you have any security. You should also let them know if there are security cameras anywhere.
- Rules for smoking (maybe also worthwhile sharing the UK laws on this and have it translated if possible. A simple no smoking sign might do the trick if there is a language barrier.
- House map/layout with room names and possible add in the room names in their language.
- Your schedule if you work or leave regularly for any reason. Try one of these to make it easier.
- Taxi numbers.
- Nearest supermarket.
- Nearest shop.
- Nearest post office.
- Job centre location and popular job hunting websites for your area. If they want to work remotly you can refer them to this list of websites to find remote work.
- Citizens advice bureau.
- Location of churches or other religious buildings.
- Pharmacy location and approximate prescription costs (In Scotland prescriptions are free)
- List of useful apps e.g. bus timetable, Microsoft translate, just eat, Uber, Tesco, Asda etc.
- A translation sheet of some common phrases or local slang.
- Translations of common medications such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, aspirin.