Representatives of an Epping Forest charity are helping Ukrainian refugees settle into their new lives into the district through new weekly sessions in Loughton.

Four Ukrainian Get Together sessions have already been held at St Mary’s Church, with more than 60 refugees receiving practical help and advice since fleeing the war in Ukraine and arriving in the Epping Forest area.

Voluntary Action Epping Forest (VAEAF) and St Mary’s Loughton have provided the refugees with vital information on living in the UK, such as how to access the education and health systems and details on local schools and colleges, as well as accessing free NHS checks.

Other crucial information has also been provided such as details on foodbanks and 3Food4U, public transport, local job opportunities and job clubs. Information on local activities for kids and families, benefits advice, housing options and budget food shopping were also given, with translation services provided by VAEF.

Nine refugees also received free Vodafone sim cards which have been supplied by the WECAN Digital Inclusion project. Beneficiaries of these sims will now be able to use them to help find voluntary or paid jobs.

Epping Forest Guardian:

One of the refugees, 66-year-old Tetiana, said: “The sessions at St Mary’s are a fantastic opportunity for me to meet other Ukrainians and share our experiences. Having tea together and supporting each other makes a big difference. I know I am not alone.

“You can have tonnes of leaflets, but having a human being listening to what you say and answering your questions, supporting you, encouraging you is so much more effective.

“I was really struggling to understand the education system but Marina explained it so well. I cannot thank Caroline, Paula and Marina enough for the warm welcome and support.”

Olena, 35, said: “The sessions are so informative. I have searched for information on the internet for hours, but it only takes minutes to ask Caroline and Marina to get answers.

“Getting SIM cards was so great, this helped me to keep connected with other Ukrainians and also to start my job search.

VAEF are currently speaking to other churches and community venues in Epping Forest to hold similar sessions supporting refugee families coming to the district from Ukraine.

If you have a venue and believe these sessions would support refugees near you, contact for more information.