According to figures released last year, almost 2,500 Ukrainian refugees are living in the North East, having arrived under the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme. As part of a drive to help these new arrivals settle into their new home – and to increase locals’ understanding of the Ukrainian culture – charity Cedarwood organised a coming together of Meadow Well residents with some of these Ukrainian nationals.
On Wednesday they worked together to prepare and cook borscht, a traditional Ukrainian stew, in the charity’s kitchens, before enjoying the food together and sharing it with other centre users and Ukrainian refugees.
The event was organised by Ukrainian immigrant Alona Mochulska, who is the charity’s Community Connector and whose role is funded by Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.
Alona, who has lived in the UK for around 18 months since fleeing Ukraine, said:
“We are so grateful to the British people for welcoming us, and we wanted to do something for them to say thank you, and food is a perfect thing to share with our new friends.
“It is very important that we are able to share our traditions with our neighbours, but also each other. Cedarwood has given us a place to come together where we can speak in our own language, and talk about home. Although there are many Ukrainians in the North East there are not many places we can do this.
“I want to say thank you to Cedarwood. Hopefully we can host many more events like this, and we can build stronger bonds between our communities.”
Alona, Cedarwood and the community
Alona was appointed to her role at Cedarwood around four months ago with the aim of helping Ukrainians who have fled their native country to settle into their new communities, but also to enable them to nurture and share their own culture while in the North East.
So far this has involved screening of Ukrainian films in the charity’s recently-refurbished building, and even traditional Ukrainian doll-making sessions.
Cedarwood Chief Executive Wayne Dobson said that it was vital to help encourage understanding of Ukrainian culture, but he also wanted to enable Ukrainian families to nurture and enjoy their traditions themselves.
“We are already making strong links between our local communities, and this tasting event was just one more step in helping those who are new to our country feel settled in their new home, and what better way is there to bring people together than over food?
“It was a joy to see so many North Shields residents truly enjoying themselves cooking, and then eating, some traditional Eastern European food with their new neighbours.
“Our community has been so welcoming to our new visitors and this event only goes to prove that.
“However, as well as helping North Shields residents understand more about Ukrainian culture, we are also very keen for Ukrainians and their families to be able to retain and develop their own culture and sense of identity.
“These families will hope to return home in the coming years, and it is vital for them, and their children, that they are able to maintain and develop a sense of their own traditions while they are here, so that they truly feel home when they go back.”
North Shields resident Chris Reeve, attended. He said:
“I think this is a great way for people who are new to the UK to share their traditions with us.
“The food itself was absolutely delicious, and will hopefully encourage more people to cook their own meals, and perhaps try to make something new.”
What does Cedarwood do?
Cedarwood is a charity focused on fighting poverty across the North East, a region with higher levels of food poverty than anywhere else in England.
As part of this, it helps around 1,000 people feed their families through its Food Membership Scheme, where customers are able to pay just £4 a week for a £15 shop in its Nourish Store.
Much of the food given out to the community is donated – Cedarwood collects more than 20 tonnes of donated items and surplus food/household items a year.
Cedarwood also helps around 160 people a year gain care and culinary-related qualifications. Some of these trainees have prepared, and continue to prepare, meals that go out into the community, and also cook for the charity’s Nourish Bistro.
It also runs a programme of free family and community activities to benefit the local community.
More information on Cedarwood here.
If you would like to help by volunteering at Cedarwood or would like to donate food, please contact call 0330 094 8454 or email [email protected].