Sanctuary Café celebrates its first year serving Ukrainian refugees

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Having recently celebrated its first anniversary, HTH Church’s Sanctuary Café continues to aid Ukrainians who fled the war- and now you can help!

Since inception, HTH Church (Holy Trinity Hastings) has sought to support the community of Hastings, with a host of outreach programmes including affordable children’s clubs during half terms and Safehaven drop-ins for vulnerable men and women in the town. Naturally, when the situation in Ukraine arose, HTH, along with other groups in the town, jumped into action to support the men, women and children who now find themselves calling Hastings their home. Thus, Sanctuary Café was born- hosted at HTH Hall and open to every Ukrainian within Hastings and the local area. Now, just over a year old and as necessary as ever, we look back on the café’s impact so far, and ahead to what it needs to continue thriving.

Far more than just a cafe, the Sanctuary Café is as its name suggests: a place of rest, of safety and of aid. Each Monday between 10.30 am and 1.30 pm, 40 to 60 visitors meet at HTH Hall on Cambridge Road and embrace a newfound community. They share a variety of traditional food cooked by Ukrainian volunteers (I hear the borscht is particularly good), make and maintain relationships and learn or improve their conversational English thanks to a handy TEFL qualified language teacher. For those looking even further ahead, a representative of Hastings Resettlement Employability Project regularly visits.

Key services provided by Sanctuary Café:

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Sanctuary CafeSanctuary Cafe
Sanctuary Cafe
  • TEFL qualified teacher for conversational English
  • distributes donated clothing.
  • helps fill in forms.
  • explains English customs.
  • builds local community.
  • provides craft facilities.

At the Sanctuary Café, guests can not only make use of all these fantastic free offerings, but also share problems, celebrate successes, and ask for help when it is needed. Reflecting on the café’s impact, on their lives, two of its visitors, Tatyana and Alexandra, spoke highly, exclaiming “amazing café, amazing people. It has helped us find friends and speak English. We’re grateful for the opportunity to be part of this place”.

For those who enjoy being part of church on Sundays, the Sanctuary Café also provides a translated version of the 11.15 Sunday service. Through this, guests can join in with the service without the issue of a language barrier. These translated services are also significant as they help visitors keep updated on upcoming events within the church. Prayer can also be asked for at the café, though this is certainly not a requirement for attendance, and all are welcome- regardless of faith. Pastor Sampson, a Ukrainian church leader had nothing but praise for the café when we spoke to him, stating “the Sanctuary Café at HTH Hall is a special place to rest and have interaction for many Ukrainian people who are fleeing the war in their country. The hospitality and generosity of HTH Church in Hastings has contributed to creating an environment and atmosphere which is helping us to relax and helps dispel thoughts of the war and the pressures it brings”.

The Sanctuary Café truly is an essential service to all those who visit it, providing its guests with a safe space to relax, embrace community and seek support. Most exciting of all, it is a community project that allows for Hastings and its neighbours to come together and unite for this wonderful cause.

Want to get involved? Donations are always gratefully received, especially clothing (preferable new or nearly new) while the café itself is desperately seeking a catering dishwasher if any local establishment has one to spare, please do get in touch. All donations can be bought to HTH Hall on Mondays between 11 am to 1 pm.

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About HTH Church: A local church serving the Hastings and local East Sussex community, HTH is led by Sarah and Simon Larkin, who moved to Hastings in 2014 with a small team to help revitalise the church (which had been at risk of closure). The church now runs community projects that impact over 500 people each week and Sunday services which are relaxed in style, with a café serving fresh coffee, tea and croissants, a live band, life-impacting talk and an exciting children’s and youth programme.

Rebecca Barnes

HTH Hall

Cambridge Road


TN34 1DJ

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