TWO kind-hearted youngsters want to forfeit their Christmas presents to help fund activities for Ukrainian refugee children in Peebles hotels.

Kingsland Primary School pupils Isabelle and Rosie Whitehouse have created the group ‘Peebles Ukraine Together’ after a tea-time chat with their mum Yvonne.

And it will help fund 38 refugee children to access holiday activities in the Christmas break.

P6 pupil Rosie said: “I love all the things I do in my free time.

“I dance all the time and I was wondering if the children had anything to do in the hotels.”

The 10-year-old added: “If they didn’t, could we start up clubs and camps with them after school and in the holidays.”

Her sister, seven-year-old P3 pupil Isabelle, said: “I didn’t know how it would be without a home, but I did not think I would like it.

“I do Beavers, football, a bike club and dancing.”

The pair thought that it would be great if the funds could also be used to help with transport from Macdonald Cardrona Hotel and Peebles Hydro, where there are refugees based.

They decided to ask some of their family if, instead of Christmas presents, they could get money for clubs and classes for the Ukrainian children.

This led to Yvonne joining forces with Ukrainian parents Oleg Semerikov and Christian Ejikeme Okoye, and setting up a Crowdfunder page.

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It is about halfway towards its target of raising £1,500 which will pay for hall hire, club coaches and activity leaders and transport.

Oleg said: “The biggest thing people will miss about not spending Christmas at home is having our whole family around.

“Many of us left relatives and friends and women left their husbands.”

Yvonne said: “There are already some really good initiatives in Peebles.

“Fiona Henderson’s Dance School funded high school students to do a show and there were football camps in the summer.

“There are things happening but in little pockets and it felt important to us that, particularly when it is dark and cold, they could go somewhere to run around, as there is not much space in the hotels.

"It needs to be collaborative and I am so pleased that Oleg and Christian are alongside us.”

Tweeddale East councillor Julie Pirone said: “I think it is fantastic that the community have come together to help our Ukrainian friends and I would urge everybody to take part on the Crowdfunding page.”

Yvonne’s plans are supported by part-time Priorsford teacher Michelle Fraser, who runs a community interest company, Branching Upwards, with lots of connections to activity providers.

Michelle said: “Lots of local organisations were really keen to get involved but did not know how. Some people are prepared to give time to run extra activities during the Christmas period. Someone has offered to do drumming and another crafts.”

Christian said: “The children also need additional English classes. It is one thing going to school and being surrounded by English speakers, it is another thing to learn grammar and pronunciation.

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“When I pick up the children from school I ask, ‘Do you understand anything you are doing (in school) at all?’ Some say 40/60.”

Oleg added: “If there are any teachers from Ukraine they could also be involved as it is important for our children to also study their own language.

“They should learn Ukrainian because, some day, most of the children will return to Ukraine and they will have to continue to study in their own language.

“If they study only in English here they will return with nothing in Ukrainian, especially for the primary children.”

Oleg added: “For the adults there are some events with Ukrainians in Edinburgh. Scottish people are very friendly.”

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