Since the launch of the Homes for Ukraine scheme in East Sussex, more than 800 host families across across the county have welcomed over 1,800 Ukrainian guests into their homes. This week marks 12 months since the UK Government launched the scheme, and whilst the war in Ukraine is ongoing, we must continue to show our support for the people of Ukraine.

Jovanne Campbell recently spoke to Clare in Lewes about her experience of hosting a Ukrainian guest and her two daughters, and how their relationship blossomed over time. She also gave advice to anyone who is considering becoming a host.

Clare’s story

Clare welcomed Maria and her two daughters, Maya and Emma, into her home, after they fled from the conflict in Ukraine. She said: “Maria came to us with her two young daughters, who were aged 11 and four. I wanted her to know that our home was a sanctuary of peace and safety, so I said to her that she should make our house her own and that she was going to be a part of our family.”

Clare continued: “They settled in very quickly, and she offered to pay her way. I told her not to be silly and that was completely unnecessary. “

Building trust

“I’m not going to sit here and say it was a complete walk in the park, as with every relationship you’re going to have ups and downs.

“Maria and her children left a traumatising situation and it’s important to have an understanding of your guests and also the compassion it requires to manage them sensitively. As the relationship develops, a trust builds between both of you which turns into a kind of family unit.”

“I was so proud when Maria’s eldest completed her first day of school, and when Maria found a job as a translator. Just seeing them being able to move forward with their lives and also making a few friends in the area was a joy to behold. It just made me happy that I could play such a small part in helping her get back on her feet.”

‘You gave me the strength to recover and face the future’

Maria and her two daughters stayed with Clare’s family for just over nine months before returning to Ukraine. It was a difficult day for everyone involved.

Clare said: “When Maria left, it was an emotional day for all of us, as after living with us for nine months, it felt like my own daughter and grand daughters were leaving me. We completely understood the decision for her to go back to Ukraine to be with her husband.”

She continued: “She actually sent us a thank you card that said: You gave me the strength to recover and face the future.”

“Since she left, we regularly Facetime her and her daughters, and I made sure that I had a call with her on the anniversary of the invasion as I still feel a responsibility to be there for her and support her emotionally.”

On the experience of hosting

Without the generosity from hosts around the community, like Clare, we could not have provided safe accommodation for Ukrainians. We continue to need people with space in their home to step forward and join our Homes for Ukraine heroes, who are making an incredible difference every day.

Ukrainian refugee cuddles her daughters on a bluebell walk in East Sussex

Maria and her daughters

“I found the experience amazing and it’s something that I would certainly like to do again in the near future. At the moment we’re having a little break, but we’re more than open to taking another guest into our home when the time is right and the opportunity arises.”

How you can help

As the war continues, we’re still expecting over 300 guests to arrive in the coming weeks. We’re looking for host families in East Sussex to join the Homes for Ukraine scheme who can offer a home, or spare room for at least six months. As a thank you for your help, you will receive a monthly payment.

We have a range of information, advice and support services available for hosts, including a dedicated website, weekly newsletters and a contact centre which can be reached by phone and email to make sure all hosts are well supported. For more information on what you can do to help Visit the Homes for Ukraine webpages or email: