We sat down with Debbie Walker of Merry Maids Croydon to find out how she’s using her business to support Ukrainian refugees.
When the crisis in Ukraine began in February of this year, people across the UK were moved to try and support the people of Ukraine in any way they could.
Debbie Walker, the owner of Merry Maids Croydon, was no exception.
How it started
Initially, Debbie and her husband wanted to take on refugees to live in their house, but when they realised this wouldn’t be a viable option, Debbie resolved to help out however else she could.
Alongside sending regular aid donations, this was (unexpectedly) through her Merry Maids business.
When, in April, a friend of Debbie’s took in Yuliia, a 25-year-old Ukrainian woman under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, Debbie brought Yuliia on as one of her maids, providing domestic cleaning services to customers in the Croydon area.
Not only did the promise of this work allow Yuliia to get a 3-year work VISA to enable her to stay and work in the UK, but it also meant she could avoid being required to remain in Ukraine to fight.
Supporting Yuliia’s family
However, this does still mean being separated from her family. Like all men in Ukraine, Yuliia’s father and fiancé cannot leave the country.
But Yuliia is still trying to help out at home as best she can and recently raised money via a Crowdfunding campaign for her father, Georgii, who is leading a battalion of 100 men in Ukraine.
“I want to help him and the other men in his regiment,” Yuliia said. “They would really benefit from practical items such as raincoats, camp beds, socks, gloves, torches, and bedding. These items may sound small, but they would make their life much more comfortable, as they live in difficult conditions. I ask you for help. Every penny is important now. Together we can help my country in a difficult time.”
Thankfully, her new community in Croydon and across the UK rallied around her, and she managed to successfully raise just shy of £1200 from 31 sponsors in under a month.
Having worked as a maid for over three months, Yuliia has had a different training programme than the typical Merry Maids cleaner.
In Ukraine, Yuliia’s work experience had been farming to help her family.
When she came to the UK, Yuliia spoke some English but didn’t meet the English proficiency standard to work on staff.
Naturally, the extenuating circumstances meant that allowances were made for Yuliia to train with the help of Debbie’s existing team.
Debbie says that her staff have been a fantastic support to Yuliia through her adjustment process.
The array of nationalities on Debbie’s brilliant team has meant that Yuliia has received help from Debbie’s Russian, Lithuanian, Slovenian, and Bulgarian members, whom all share a degree of fluency in Russian.
This allowed Yuliia to complete her training in a combination of English and a language she was much more familiar with, which has aided her enormously in getting to grips with the more technical elements of the job.
Debbie, having been to a recruitment fair for Ukrainian refugees in the last month, says that the biggest hurdle is not only the shell shock that many of the new arrivals are still suffering from but also the language barrier, which makes it even harder for them to find work so soon after entering the country.
However, Yuliia now works as a maid three days a week alongside English language lessons the other two days, intending to become fluent enough to help train future Ukrainian refugees in the area who may wish to join the business.
Debbie says she has been warmed to see the support offered to Yuliia by her local community, not only by her staff but her customers.
Many of the latter, she says, can remember the Second World War and have memories of similar times themselves.
And whilst many businesses are struggling with recruitment in the wake of COVID-19, Debbie says that it is nice to see that despite the horrible circumstances, we can find ways of supporting each other.
Want to show your support for Ukrainian refugees?
If you would like to support refugees like Yuliia, LRS provides resources to help Ukrainian and other asylum seekers, immigrants, and refugees worldwide. To learn more, visit their website or call their action line on 410-983-4000.
And if you would like to help out by booking a clean from Yuliia and the rest of the Merry Maids Croydon team, give them a call on 020 8663 3268 or find your nearest Merry Maids business for a free quote on a range of domestic cleaning services.