English courses give Ukrainian refugees new opportunities

Ukrainian refugees have many skills that they would like to bring to Denmark. They want to contribute to the society they are now part of. An English course gives them better opportunities to create a good life in Denmark. We need your help to get more English courses up and running – give a Christmas gift that makes a difference.

The English language is not a major part of everyday life in Ukraine, and English is even less important in the education system. Aid Ukraine Denmark has been organizing English courses at Studieskolen for Ukrainian refugees for over a year with the help of financial contributions from companies, foundations and individuals. Here, Ukrainians improve their English skills with the aim of finding employment.

It costs 1400 DKK for seven weeks of intensive English lessons per student. Aid Ukraine Denmark and Studieskolen have had good results with the “Business and Job” courses, which have helped many Ukrainian refugees find jobs or internships.

Mette and Svala from Aid Ukraine went to the end of term English course on a particularly wet Thursday in November to talk to the students about what they have gained from the course. The table was set with coffee, biscuits and Ukrainian chocolates and the conversation was lively – in English.

“I just had my first job interview!” enthuses Kateryna Shebalina, a project manager back in Kyiv. The seven-week English course improved her English skills to such an extent that she was able to write an English job application that landed her a job interview. Something she couldn’t do before.

Next to her is Artur Bulhakov, who was a professor of law in Kharkiv. “Copenhagen is very international, so English is very important here,” he says, and continues: “English provides access to education, to the municipality – indeed to society.”

A study by the international education organization EF Education First rated English proficiency in Ukraine as “moderate”. The country was ranked 30th out of 35 European countries.

Anna Ivankova, a cosmetologist in Ukraine, has improved her English more in the last two months than in the last 22 years. “The employees from the municipality have even noticed,” she says happily.

Ukrainian is the only official language in Ukraine and is spoken by the majority, but around 30% of the population speaks partial or only Russian. Tetiana Donska comes from eastern Ukraine, where there is a strong Russian influence. And even less English is spoken here than in the rest of the country.

When she started the course, she only knew four words in English: mother, father, sister, brother. Since she couldn’t communicate in Danish or English, she could only get cleaning jobs, even though she has a degree in design and economics. Two months later, she has improved her English so much that she now has an internship as an assistant designer.

We talk to another group of students about what English language learning has meant to them in their everyday lives. One works as a chef at a street food market, now she can talk to the customers. Another works as a waiter and now she can take orders from customers. A third can now finally express his gratitude to the municipality in words.

In student feedback, English teacher Svetlana is praised for her professionalism, clear grammar rules and useful topics. The feedback from the students shows that 100% of them were satisfied with the course and 90% rated that they gained “a lot” of new knowledge.

An English course gives Ukrainians an important tool to create a good life in Denmark. As they expand their language skills, they increase their chances of getting a professionally relevant job, which improves their quality of life. It also provides a sense of contributing to society and, not least, an opportunity to communicate and socialize with Danes.

Before we rounded off Thursday’s Christmas party, there was one last thing to do: Vasil Sashchuk, who works as a choir singer at the Copenhagen Opera House, sang for us. He had chosen a Ukrainian folk song about a son who leaves home at a young age and when he returns, everything has changed – except nature. Nature remains as we pass away. He sings beautifully and passionately, and everyone listens intently.

Give a Christmas gift that makes a difference. We currently have a large waiting list for our English courses, so we hope that you or your workplace would like to make a donation.

You can support via the link: https://www.aidukraine.dk/offer-help/

The Power of Sharing – Power Women-dinner in September

Resourceful Ukrainian women were invited to the Power Women-dinner to talk to Aid Ukraine about what’s happening in the refugee centers.

On a late summer evening in September, 16 women gathered at Kanalhuset in Christianshavn Copenhagen. Some are dedicated volunteers in Aid Ukraine Denmark, while most are refugees from Ukraine. Each woman represents one of the 12 centers in and around Copenhagen, and brings valuable insights that help Aid Ukraine understand the needs and mental well-being of the residents.

“If you have power, share it”

We started the evening by introducing ourselves, sharing our homes and our origins: Odessa, Frederiksberg, Kiev, Lyngby, Kharkiv. One of the women used to be a lawyer back home, now striving to rebuild her new live with her children and their dog in Denmark. Another woman is in a Danish school, studying to become a social helper. She faces many challenges but finds fulfillment. Stine Trampe, the leader of Team Social in Aid Ukraine, commended her, saying “You are a role model for all Ukrainians”, who which she replied “my attiude is… I love people”.

As the women shared their stories, they also took the opportunity to express their thoughts and emotions. Some of them expressed heartfelt gratitude to Aid Ukraine, while others emphasized the power of unity and strength. “If you have power, share it” one woman says, touching us all with her words.

Happiness and sorrow coexisting

One woman representing a refugee center in Nørrebro shared her experience working with individuals battling addiction back in Ukraine. She now notices familiar patterns among her new neighbors, who turns to alcohol as a way to cope with their traumas. She can’t help but feel their pain, knowing what she knows. The same woman lives in a small room with her mother and recently welcoming a new roommate – her own child. Despite the difficulties, we celebrated this happy moment together, knowing that happiness and sorrow coexist in their lives. They express gratitude for the safety Denmark provides, yet they long for their homeland, Ukraine.

Starting anew in a foreign land comes with its own set of challenges – packing their lives swiftly and creating a home for their children. How do they find and transport furniture, bicycles and winter jackets? How do they learn the language? The concerns are many, and sometimes, the help they need feels limited. That’s why the Power Women-dinner is so important – it allows them to address these needs and find solutions together.

How can Aid Ukraine help?

After the introductions, we discussed the needs of the women and their fellow Ukrainians in the centers. Aid Ukraine offers English classes, and the women eagerly noted. Aid Ukraine wanted to know if there is any interest in yoga? “No no, just take my children and let me sleep” one woman said, and the rest of the women bursted into laughter, they all agree. Yoga would be wonderful, but it is utopia, because what are these single mothers going to do with their children in the meantime? Instead, one woman suggested a Beauty Day on Mother’s Day in May, where they can plan for babysitters and dedicate a day to self-care. They all agreed that a Beauty Day would be truly beneficial. However, one woman added, reminding of the uncertainty of their future in Denmark. What if the war was to end suddenly? The future remains uncertain, but their hope remains unwavering.

One of the refugee centers is next to an elder home, and the woman representing the center, raised concerns about the restrictions places on Ukrainian children playing football or making noise. They requested activities that foster their joy and playfulness, children should allowed to be children.

But tonight is their night. They have all dressed up, some are wearing their vyshyvanka, the traditional embroidered tunic, and added a touch of red lipstick. This evening at Kanalhuset is dedicated to celebrate the amazing women they are. The women have also been treated a goodie bag from Aid Ukraine with gifts from Mill & Mortar, Have a look, GM Trading and Scandic Amager, and not least a new network with other power women like themselves.

Aid Ukraine works tirelessly to help Ukrainian women in Denmark, and events like the Power Women-dinner play a crucial role in our collective journey. We welcome any donations, big or small, with open hearts. You can contribute through our MobilePay number: 741804.

The story of our Youth club

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Our wonderful volunteers, Stine Trampe and Camilla Rosager, started a Youth Club for young Ukrainians living alone in April 2022. There are looking after them as their mothers.

Meet young Ukrainians Anna, Tanya and Vova

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Young Ukrainians talk about immigration and life in Denmark. Ukrainian volunteer Anna helps with free tours to museums and theatres. Tanya tells her story, and Vova explains how the Youth club helps them.

First Workshop Jobs and Skills

The event was attended by 40 highly engaged Ukrainians.

The Aid Ukraine Denmark Jobs & Skills workshop pilot took place on Thursday,
August 18th, at the Frivilligcenter of Rudersdal.

The workshop was designed to inform our Ukrainian friends about topics around job
search and working life in Denmark.

The audience consisted of Ukrainians from Ruderdal and a couple of other
municipalities that came to Denmark to find a temporary home while the Russian war
against Ukraine was underway.

The presenters spent slightly over two hours talking about a smart way of compiling
CVs, cultural differences between Ukraine and Denmark and many-many other
topics around Jobs & Skills including but not limited to employee rights and unions in
Denmark. The workshop was conducted in Ukrainian.

The event was attended by approx. 40 highly engaged participants listening
attentively, asking all sorts of questions, and sharing experiences – and emotions.

The feedback received was highly helpful and encouraging.

The team Jobs & Skills will coordinate further similar workshops on topics of
relevance in collaboration with third party presenters.

First Free English Classes

The first group of Ukrainians began improving their English Skills.

On June 28th the first two groups of Ukrainians began taking English classes at Studieskolen. These pilot classes were made possible thanks to a donation from Lemvigh-Müller Fonden and took place for a period of two months during the summer. The purpose of this initiative was to help our Ukrainian friends to acquire and improve their English skills. This is the only way for them to get a better access to the labour market while they are in Denmark. The feedback received was highly encouraging.

The comments from Studieskolen were very positive: Students’ engagement was very high, and they were diligent about doing homework. They really wanted to learn, and they were ager to help and encourage one another in the learning process. They seemed happy overall and were very thankful for what they were learning.

All students rated the quality of teaching with 5 stars. Almost 90% of the students rated acquiring new knowledge with 4 to 5 stars. Over 50% of the students confirmed improving on skills after the classes with a rating of 4 or 5 stars.

Tara Klarlund Hogen, the head of the English Department at Studieskolen, shared these impressions: “I met the students regularly. They always seemed so happy and engaged. It was good that they could have their young children with them in class. One teacher brought colouring books and markers for the children. This helped them stay entertained and involved.

Overall there was a sense of purpose and direction. Some talked about jobs. Others signed up for the new free intensive courses (14 weeks) that Studieskolen offered. It was a pleasure working with Aid Ukraine Denmark on this Pilot Program. We kept in close contact throughout and this led to a good collaboration. Thank you in particular to Mette and Margarita at Aid Ukraine Denmark.”

Job Fairs in Copenhagen and Roskilde

We turned job-matching events into real job opportunities for many Ukrainians.

We are committed to assisting as many Ukrainians as possible to integrate into the Danish labour market. In June, Styrelsen for Arbejdsmarked og Rekruttering and Aid Ukraine Denmark worked hand in hand to organise large-scale job-matching events for Ukrainians in Copenhagen and Roskilde. Around twenty-five companies presented different job opportunities to 1200 Ukrainians. It was a mix of big multinational and medium-sized Danish businesses. It was very encouraging to see them taking the lead. Both job fairs have been very successful as many Ukrainians got employed as a result.

Niels Aarslew, VEU-coordinator Arbejdsmarkedskontor Øst at Styrelsen for Arbejdsmarked og Rekruttering, has acknowledged the collaboration with Aid Ukraine Denmark as highly effective and fruitful: “Aid Ukraine Denmark has delivered a very valuable and highly appreciated contribution to the successful job-match events for Ukrainians in Copenhagen and Roskilde. They have been extremely helpful in contacting participating companies and Ukrainians and providing voluntary interpreters for the event. Aid Ukraine Denmark deserves all the credit they can get for their dedication and effort.”

On the side of Aid Ukraine Denmark, representatives of several teams were involved: Jobs & Skills, Translation, Secretariat, and Communication. Margarita Chalmer, the lead for Jobs & Skills, acknowledged an outstanding support by many helping hands: “Together we turned job-matching events into real job opportunities for many Ukrainians. By no means an easy task – but highly necessary and helpful.“

We received positive feedback from Ukrainians seeking jobs and our interpreters working during two job fairs. Interpreter Mariia says: “I am very thankful for participating in the Job Fair for Ukrainians. It was an incredible experience for me. It was a meaningful and fulfilling job to help people like me and my fellow citizens in need. We are bound with the same tragedy, lost homes and employment, and we had to flee to save our lives. We want to work, and we need jobs. Sometimes people just wanted to communicate, hear the Ukrainian language, and feel solidarity. I believe such events help not only to find a job but also  engagement and integration in Denmark.”