Homes for Ukraine

The Visa Application Centre in Croydon continue to work seven days a week to process applications from people in Ukraine to come to the UK. They answer telephone enquiries promptly and are extremely helpful. That said the period between an application being made and a decision is still very difficult for applicants to manage.

The couple we wish to host have submitted their applications and their forms have been uploaded onto the Government’s computer system; any further information had to be uploaded before the end of December. (The date and time of the application determines their position in the queue.) Now the information will be reviewed and a decision made. After a slight panic that vital information might be missing from the original application, followed by a flurry of emails, they were able to get letters of authorisation from Solomiia’s parents formally stamped by an elusive official in Kiev and these were submitted in good time.

Now we wait.

Ron Jordan

Refugee Aid from Taunton (RAfT): Charity No:1180367

The feet of RAfT volunteers have not ‘touched the ground’ since I last sent in an update. In the last 6 weeks, around 350 people have been given a ‘safe place’ to stay in our area. Most have arrived with nothing more than what they stand up in and so we have learned to become ‘personal shoppers’, trying to find serviceable clothing to fit each one from among the items donated. Adult sized trainers and children’s shoes have been in particularly short supply. I have been a regular visitor to a certain budget store in Taunton, buying new pants for each person, as well as trying to keep our churches updated with any special requests. These have included umbrellas, packs of playing cards, chess, draughts and dominoes, UNO, Monopoly games, balls, all of which continue to be needed. Recently we have also been asked for scooters for children aged 5 – 12 and have been able to supply two so far. It is hard to imagine trying to keep children occupied when confined to one or two rooms and not understanding the language. Meanwhile, setting up schooling for 70 is a ‘work in progress’.

As well as this, a request was received for blankets, nappies, sanitary products, food such as tea, coffee and packet soup to go to Ukraine – the first part of this left the warehouse on 7th January and another shipment will leave in early February. Clothing destined for Pakistan was shipped on 18th January and we are hoping to arrange for pallets of medical items to go to Syria as soon as possible.

Ukrainians settled locally continue to seek warm waterproof clothing and thanks to a Fareshare collection each Wednesday from Tesco, a little food is supplied to 9 refugee families.

On behalf of all the recipients, ‘Thank you’. Without your support and generosity RAfT would be unable to bring a little joy into the lives of these displaced people.

Elaine Dew

Care and Relief for Children (C.R.Y.):

The Christmas newsletter mentioned the tradition of giving Christmas presents and how it started with gifts to the poor. Highlighted Saint Nicholas, who was a Turkish / Greek monk of 3rd Century who gave genuine compassion to the poor. He became known as Protector of Children. The CRY Christmas Campaign followed this theme and was raising funds for the children of Africa, who are in poverty. Highlighted was the giving of presents for orphan children in Madagascar.

New Project: Child of Hope, Uganda, gives support to marginalised children and helps them develop skills and self-reliance. CRY supports three schools in Namatala, a slum district in Eastern Uganda.

The January newsletter expresses prayers and thoughts to partners who have faced difficulties in Afghanistan (taking away rights of females), violence in Haiti and the tragic war in Ukraine.

New Project: Supporting displaced children from Myanmar and, in particular, helping Burmese children with Education.

CRY has entered a Partnership with a like-minded new charity in the USA called the Collaborative Project.

On 24th February, there will be an event in collaboration with Kings Community Church, Southampton, to highlight the tragic situation in the Ukraine on the first Anniversary of the war starting. It will showcase how CRY has responded to the conflict and in other conflicts in the world.

Further information about C.R.Y. available on website

Francis Lewis

Action for Children:

A newsletter early in January reviewed projects in 2022 and also looked at Partnerships with firms, fund raising and how these have helped children.

The latest newsletter champions the effective ways of helping young people and parents managing mental health. 1 in 10 children in the UK experiences Mental Health problems. The Blues programme deals with the wellbeing of children aged 13-19 and helps with managing emotions. On-line tools such as Parent Talk and other things to help children are also mentioned.

A story of Esther struggling with stress of exams who attended six-week course to improve emotional resilience. All these things are only possible through the kindness of supporters.

Full information on Action for Children projects etc. is available at

Francis Lewis

Somerset Community Foundation

Justin Sargent, Chief Executive, write that September 2022 marked 20 years since Somerset Community Foundation was founded. During that time SCE has been privileged to award £20 million of funding to hundreds of wonderful charities across the county, thanks to many generous local supporters.

Every one of those charities has a powerful story to tell about the difference they make to individual lives each day. These relate to the passion and often very personal motivations of the people who give their time and energy to make a difference and how they’re changing the world on their doorstep.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary, SCE is honoured to share a new story every month in a special email series which will shine a spotlight on just a few of the many wonderful charities we’re lucky to have in Somerset. This month features Axe Valley Men’s Shed and what they do.

There is a link in the newsletter about ways of supporting SCE to make a bigger impact in the community.

Francis Lewis

Taunton Welcomes Refugees

As you will all guess, the potential for our work is always expanding rather than shrinking – especially with the way that the world is at present! Whereas pre-Covid all our work was with befriending Syrian families, we now befriend families and individuals from many parts of the Middle East and North Africa, not to mention the Ukraine. Some of those we support in this way are as young as 16 years old and away from family. Not only has our work included people from many different parts of the globe but it has extended far beyond befriending, to regular coffee & conversation sessions in both Taunton and Bridgwater, English language classes, preparation courses for Ukrainian hosts and occasional workshops in music, art, and employment. The main highlights for us recently are Syrian families being given indefinite leave to remain (after their initial 5 years of residency), our first very young asylum seeker being granted refugee status and TWR being selected by the Arts Council as one of twelve charities to be involved in the ‘Red Dress Project’ (

More work demands requires more people! We particularly need new trustees who can help us consolidate or expand our work. We also urgently need befrienders for the Bridgwater area. Most of our work there now revolves around a Wednesday morning drop-in session. If you are able to help (or know anyone who might be interested) please see our advertisement at the back of this magazine. Thank you.

Lynne Mayers

Charities and other Organisations Needing Your Support
or That Can Offer Support to You ...


The local pantry is an initiative partnered with FareShare Southwest providing fresh and cupboard food to families at a fraction of the normal price. Fareshare works with large organisations to help bridge the gap between food producers, supermarkets and landfill to ensure good, fresh (but surplus) food is not wasted. This food is delivered to us every week and all the food is within its 'best before' date. Our members pay a small amount per week for food worth between £20-£25, so they save money whilst saving perfectly good food from going to landfill.

Somerset County Council and Somerset West & Taunton Council provided the funding for the essential core costs of the pantry which is now run by local volunteers under a Team Leader, to support the residents of North Taunton.

The pantry was fortunate to be nominated for a grant from The National Grid as part of their Christmas Community Giving campaign, to support communities with addition funding for the Christmas and winter period. We were awarded a very generous grant and were able to provide the members with food for the festive season that they may not have been able to add to their growing Christmas food shopping lists and a gift voucher. It will also give us enough to be able to stock the fridge with a few extra basics for the winter months as well as opening a warm space for the hours that the pantry is open on Tuesdays 11am to 3.30pm. In the weeks leading up to Christmas we were fortunate to receive extra donations from Kath the Community Champion at Morrison, we also received presents for the children of the members from Christmas Sparkle, and to those who are from single households Angela Bolitho, from the One Team, donated packets of biscuits and selection boxes for the children. We are always very grateful for the generosity of those who donate and support the pantry. I have also been approached by a lady keen to donate slow cookers to the members to aid with fuel costs while still being able to cook meals with ingredients supplied. She is fundraising within her own community and very aware of the help needed during the cost-of-living crisis.
The membership has grown with 47 receiving bags of food each week, we have managed to reduce the waiting list a little but there are always more applying weekly and it soon builds up again. If you know of anyone who may need the help we can offer or if you would like to join the scheme as a volunteer or member, please contact the team, by emailing You can also visit our Facebook page.

Gillian Flick (Team Leader)

plc is a trading company which imports a huge variety of artisan products and groceries from the developing world. All the products are Fairly-traded, the profits going straight to the producers to help them to sustain their families through employment.

Temple supports and promotes the aims of TRAIDCRAFT. It is hoped at some time in the future Temple will be able to offer a limited selection TRAIDCRAFT goods. Until then TRAIDCRAFT catalogues are available to anyone who wishes to peruse at their leisure what TRAIDCRAFT offers or you can see all available products on the TRAIDCRAFT Website -

Safe Families are looking for volunteers in Somerset who might be able to support a family virtually through telephone or video calls. Certain people may also be free to pick up shopping, but staying in contact through this period of isolation is a priority need. There is a checking process, training and oversight for any volunteers. (Don't be put off by this - it probably just means joining a short virtual training session.)

If anyone feels they are in a position to help in this way, you are able to sign up on the volunteer website page.

You can find out more about the work of the charity from the website, and - whether you are able to volunteer practically or not - we are encouraged to pray for their work.

The latest update is that they are doing ok for volunteers and the Council has given them delivery vans and drivers. However, they would welcome additional supplies. Please find details on Taunton Foodbank website of their updated list of items to shop for and also how to donate if you are unable to go out shopping.

As up to date as possible, the printable A-Z Food Suppliers Directory can be found here: Coronavirus Community Help Taunton

For details about Christian Aid and the work they do see

In the world’s poorest communities people are having to face coronavirus without access to running water and soap. Living in cramped and unhygienic conditions, social distancing simply isn’t possible. All We Can and the Methodist Church in Britain have launched an Emergency Coronavirus Appeal to help equip vulnerable communities across the globe to combat coronavirus.

YOUR NEIGHBOUR, aims to support the work that churches are doing to be good neighbours in communities across the UK during the coronavirus crisis. They will support vulnerable, people working as a coordinated national response, partnering with the UK government and other agencies.

MHA are looking to recruit volunteers across the country to help them through the coronavirus crisis and support their clients. The roles are flexible and will be allocated dependent upon the needs of services in your local area. You can find details of the roles here.

Action for Children is helping to provide essentials to the most vulnerable families they support across the UK and those potentially affected in the future. You can read more here.

Taunton Welcomes Refugees:
As more refugees and asylum seekers are resettled in Somerset and we have been asked by the council to be ready to help support them.

also see ...

Coronovirus (COVID-19) and Other Websites webpages