A group of volunteers calling themselves ‘Welcome to Laragh’ have been listening to the needs of Ukrainian refugees currently residing in Laragh and Glendalough, so they can help them settle into their new surroundings.
There are currently around 24 Ukrainians, mainly women and children, staying in Lynham’s Hotel and the Glendalough Hotel.
‘Welcome to Laragh’ was initially established a number of months ago through members of Laragh Tidy Towns and other volunteers.
Volunteer Hilary Minch said: “We got a great response and set up a public meeting in the Brockagh Resource Centre. The meeting was so well attended we had to try and locate some more chairs for everyone. There was just a groundswell of solidarity and support for the Ukrainian people arriving here. We just wanted to see how we could best welcome them.”
The Welcome to Laragh group organised a number of events which allowed the different Ukrainian arrivals to meet with one another in person, whilst also introducing them to the wider community.
“We held a sunflower planting evening in the green opposite Lynhams. It also involved the symbolic planting of sunflowers, which are the national flower of Ukraine. It was a very moving occasion attended by Ukrainians living in Laragh, Glendalough and Roundwood.
“One Ukrainian woman said something to me that really stood out. She said “Ireland conquered us with its beauty and views but the most valuable feature in this country is its people. We feel in all our hearts your support, care and attention. Thank you”. That really stood out for me.
“We also introduced some of the arrivals to our community garden, which they are interested in.
Local volunteers are also providing practical assistance to any Ukrainians currently living in the area.
“We have been helping them with transport so they can sort out things like social welfare payments and establishing their banking details. We have been providing transport to school and to medical and other appointments. Each Wednesday afternoon people can also pop into the Brockagh Resource Centre for a chat.”
A number of local families and residents have also offered to host some of the arrivals.
Hilary added: “We are very conscious of the need for accommodation and employment. There are a few people in the area registered with the Red Cross and the County Response Forum is matching pledges of accommodation with the needs of Ukrainian people living in Laragh and Glendalough. People are getting bit frustrated that their accommodation offer still hasn’t been taken up yet.”
Ukrainians staying in both hotels have also been teamed-up with a local family by the Road to Laragh group.
“We have each Ukrainian family is buddied up with a local family where they can go into the house and use the kitchen to cook their food. It’s a way of getting them out of the hotels and also a means of meeting local people and making those important friendships,” stated Hillary.