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Hickling WI donate over 80 handmade gifts to Ukrainian children in Rushcliffe

A Women’s Institute group have wowed Ukrainian, guests and hosts in Rushcliffe by donating over 80 hand-crafted gifts to children over Christmas and during the Ukraine Orthodox Christmas this month. 

Hickling WI brought wonderful festive cheer to dozens of children who moved to the Borough last year in light of the ongoing conflict in their country and have donated reading cushions and quilts which were gratefully received by the guests.

Hickling WI donated the items to the Ukrainian groups
Hickling WI donated the items to the Ukrainian groups

The hand-made items are now being treasured by those in and around Hickling, West Bridgford and Keyworth after attending their catch-ups in recent weeks. 

West Bridgford co ordinator Pam Kirby and one of the Ukrainian guests receiving a reading cushion
West Bridgford co-ordinator Pam Kirby and one of the Ukrainian guests receiving a reading cushion

Carol Beadle was among the group members from the WI who chose to make the gifts, feeling they wanted to do their part to comfort children spending Christmas in a new country for the first time.

 

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She said: “When Russia invaded Ukraine, members of Hickling WI, like everyone else in Britain received this news in horror. We found it unbelievable that this was happening in the modern age. 

Celebrations took place to mark Christmas at the last session at Wightman Hall in West Bridgford

“Like many others, the WI members gave cash generously to the various organisations who were collecting to help the Ukrainian people, but we wondered if we could do more.

 

“Children began arriving in England having experienced the terrible suffering of war in their country, had left behind their books and toys and lost contact with their friends and had seen their homes destroyed.

Cllr Sarah Bailey with one of the gifts donated to Ukrainian guest Ohla Bielohlazova scaled
Cllr Sarah Bailey with one of the gifts donated to Ukrainian guest Ohla Bielohlazova

“We heard that about 200 families had found safety in their local area. One member made the comment that all a child needs as well as love is something to cuddle, something to read and to be able to feel emotionally comfortable. Another member then suggested we could make reading cushions or perhaps comfort quilts to be given to the children refugees and so a project began.

 

“We initially envisaged making 10 items to give away as Christmas gifts and the more skilful needlewomen in the group embroidered and quilted to create unique and beautiful throws with book or toy pockets.

Mayor Cllr Tina Combellack at one of the meetings where the gifts were donated scaled
Mayor Cllr Tina Combellack at one of the meetings where the gifts were donated

“It soon became apparent that 10 items would not be enough and the local community upon hearing about what was happening also rallied around to help by buying cushion infills, material, soft toys and books. 

 

“By the time the Ukrainian Christmas Day arrived on January 7 over 80 items had been made and assembled.

 

“The Mayor of Rushcliffe Cllr Tina Combellack was invited to a presentation evening where some of the cushions and quilts were on display and the event turned into a very emotional evening with many tears of both sadness and happiness. 

 

“She has become passionate about our project came along with us and saw for herself how overjoyed the children were to receive their gifts.

 

“A Ukrainian mother spoke about how she and her family would usually spend Christmas and the traditions her family had. To see a 10 year-old-boy sit and hug his reading cushion was a memory which will stay with us all. 

 

“To also see the joy in a father’s eyes as he accepted an embroidered quilt for his newly born child following a traumatic escape from Odessa made all our efforts worthwhile and we all felt very humble.”

 

The WI members hosted a celebration in Hickling in December before meeting the groups in West Bridgford and then Keyworth, last week. 

 

Pam Kirby runs the West Bridgford group at Wightman Hall on Stratford Road in the town on Wednesdays and thanked the group for the donations. 

 

She said: “We had a lovely morning welcoming the WI and the group members were so pleased to receive the gifts, they have been so warmly received, a huge thank you to them.

 

“We’re aware new Ukrainian guests are still arriving in West Bridgford and Rushcliffe so any guests or hosts who wish to join us for the sessions which include English lessons please do come along to the Hall on Wednesdays 10.30 am – 12.30 pm. Email pam.kirby@ntlworld.com for more information.”  

 

Keyworth group co-ordinator Miyoko Henderson was also exceptionally thankful to the group for their time and effort in making and donating the items. 

 

She said: “It was wonderful to meet the lovely ladies of the Hickling WI group. Their handmade cushions and gifts were amazing, our students and students’ children loved them.

“This kind gesture has made our students feel more welcomed and accepted to be part of our community. They all expressed their gratitude and some wrote to us after the party how grateful they were and left full of beaming smiles. So, thanks a million to the Hickling WI group. It really meant a lot to them and to us.”

 

Carol added: “It has been a humbling experience as we can only imagine what some of the children have seen and experienced.

 

“It has given the members of the group an opportunity to work together and so much has been learned about Ukrainian culture and way of life and friendships have also been forged.”

 

Reflections on Ukrainian guests arriving in Rushcliffe in 2022 also saw a moment of reflection penned by guest Ohla Bielohlazova at the start of Rushcliffe Borough Council’s December Full Council meeting.

She and her husband Denis were also the guests of the Mayor at November’s Celebrating Rushcliffe Awards and recently raised the flag on a day celebrating the anniversary of Ukrainian independence last year.

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