STUDENT volunteers have helped a Ukrainian refugee and her two daughters give the dilapidated backyard garden of their rented home in York a complete ‘Ground Force’-style makeover.
Gone is what was little more than a weed-choked patch of baked mud.
In its place is a neat, formal garden, with a carefully-mown lawn, stone pathways, and neatly tended flower beds.
The work was carried out by student volunteers from York St John University, under the auspices of charity York City of Sanctuary.
And Liudmyla, who fled her native Ukraine with her two daughters last year, says it has transformed their new home in York.
The work was done in June and July by York St John occupational therapy students Libby Cartwright, Nikoletta Szabo, Sophie Rowland and Katy Wood as part of their final year research project. All four gave their time for nothing.
Liudmyla said: “Now the garden has an incredible atmosphere, calm and cosy.
"When the weather is good we spend a lot of time there, especially during the summer holidays, and my youngest daughter plays with her friends.
“From the bottom of our hearts, the girls and I say thank you for your help funding and organizing work in the garden.”
Liudmyla’s landlords, Liz and Martine, who offered the property for rent to a Ukrainian family after contacting York City of Sanctuary, said they too were delighted.
“Before Liudmyla and her daughters moved in, our previous tenants had destroyed not only the interiors of the house but also what had been a lovely, easy to maintain garden,” Martine said.
“While we had to tackle the mess inside, unfortunately we weren’t in a position to do anything about the garden except ensure it was cleared of all kinds of debris.
“We are delighted with the work that the students from York St John University did in the garden. We are so happy that it has made a big difference to Liudmyla and her daughters.”
Libby and Nikoletta said by working on the garden they developed a ‘lovely connection and friendship’ with Liumyla and her family. “We learnt new skills from each other, had fun along the way and learnt more about the Ukrainian culture,” Libby said.
Rebecca Russell of York City of Sanctuary said there was a desperate need for other landlords like Liz and Martine to come forward to offer properties for rent to Ukrainian and other refugees.
Since March 2022, York has welcomed more than 380 Ukrainian refugees under the Homes for Ukraine and Family visa schemes, which grant Ukrainians the right to live, work, study, and apply for benefits in the UK for three years.
But Rebecca said Ukrainians living as guests in people’s homes – as happened in most cases under the Homes for Ukraine scheme - was always a short-term solution.
“After eighteen months, Ukrainian families are having to seek new options," she said. "However, finding suitable rental housing is a significant challenge due to housing shortages, high rents, and limited financial resources."
The charity has now set up a new onljne ‘registrar’ for landords in York willing to rent out their properties to refugee families at a ‘local housing authority’ rent.
Lndlords who sign up may not get a full commercial rent – but they will get an income, a good tenant - and the knowledge they are helping a family in need, Rebecca said.
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