How one Ukrainian refugee has spent the 12 months since war broke out in her home country helping others like her to make the most of their new life in the UK.
A Ukrainian refugee living in Wales has marked the first anniversary of war breaking out in her home country in the same way she has every day since – helping others like her to make the most of their new life in the UK.
It is already one year on (February 24th) from the day Russia first invaded the Ukraine, forcing Diana Oleksiuk and her young son to flee their hometown of Kitsman, leaving their husband and father, Viacheslav behind, and coming to live in Cardiff.
Since then Diana, who was a primary school teacher in Ukraine, has been working tirelessly to support other refugees after a WhatsApp group she created for fellow Ukrainians living in the UK subsequently led her to work with Wales’ leading training provider, ACT.
Following a chance meeting with ACT staff at a community outreach programme, Diana now works as a Learning Coach to support young Ukrainians adjust to life in the UK and explore work-based learning opportunities available to them through the Welsh Government’s JGW+ programme.
Diana said: “I was acting as a translator for some young Ukrainian people who were attending an outreach programme to find out what their next steps were in finding education and work-based opportunities here in Wales, when I met some of the staff from ACT.
It has been a really difficult time for all of us, but I do also believe that it should be a time for opportunity and to show our young people in Ukraine different cultures and improve their language skills too.
“It’s been really great to be able to do something productive with my time here and find a role that enables me to put my skills to use in such an appropriate and effective way, and to be able to contribute practically to the lives of others around me who are all living the same experience,” Diana added.
Both inside and outside of her role as a Learning Coach with ACT, Diana supports the young people she works with in a variety of ways. She ensures they can access the basic services they and their families need including shelter and food, to connecting them with other Ukrainians and supporting them in joining community-based groups and meet-ups to enable them to assimilate and create supportive networks for their families.
She also translates for them and helps to fill in forms when required too, as well as accompanying them on enrichment activities to help them learn more about the Welsh culture and UK life in general.
Leon Patnett, Head of Youth Programmes at ACT, said: “Since arriving in the UK, Diana has worked relentlessly to support other Ukrainians as they adjust to life here in Wales and acts as a bridge for many families accessing third sector support by translating on their behalf to ensure they receive the essential support they need.
“She selflessly volunteers herself to support others whilst working full-time at ACT and supporting her young son without her husband by her side, and is relentlessly positive and determined in her attitude in doing so.”
“Her experiences as a teacher and founder of her own English language school back in Ukraine make her perfectly placed in the work she does here at ACT, to support the young people she works with. The passion she has for supporting others is quite simply inspirational. We feel completely blessed as a team to have connected with Diana, and to be a part of her experience here in the UK. The young people and colleagues that we work with here continue to be enriched by her presence as a member of the ACT team,” Leon added.
Delivered by ACT, Wales’ leading training provider, JGW+ is a training and development programme for 16-19 year olds helping them acquire the skills, qualifications, and experience to get a job or get into further training. Understanding that no one person is the same, JGW+ is entirely unique and tailored to suit the needs of the individual learner. With a dedicated team of Tutors, Learning Coaches, Counsellors, Support Assistants, and World of Work Coaches, ACT design a unique learning journey for each learners needs.
As part of their JGW+ programme, young people from the Ukraine have been supported in a variety of ways, including receiving English lessons tutored by Cardiff charity Oasis, which works to support refugees and asylum seekers from all backgrounds integrate with their local communities.
Head here to find out more about ACT’s JGW+ programme