Ukrainian refugee develops tennis talent thanks to Dorset scheme

WHEN Yana arrived as a refugee from Ukraine in 2021, her mother was looking for ways to help the teenager settle in a new country.

She signed her up for the Dorset Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme, with Yana taking up holiday sessions with Dorchester Tennis Club.

She soon developed a passion for the game – and coaches spotted potential.

“I had played tennis before, but I really progressed once I got involved with the club,” she said.

With her mother securing a job, Yana was able to afford one-to-one tennis lessons, further enhancing her skills.

And in 2022, she seized the opportunity to compete internationally with the club, participating in tournaments in Holland and Belgium.

“It was so much fun to travel there with my friends. I have some incredible memories,” she said.

During the Christmas holidays of 2023, Yana decided to give back to the community by assisting with sports sessions at Sunninghill School in Dorchester.

Children present booked through the HAF programme, allowing them the same free access she was given in 2021.

Coach Michael Willlemse said: “She’s a great help and an inspiration to the children. We’re really proud of what she has achieved.”

Theresa Leavy, corporate director for children’s services, said: “It’s so lovely to hear about Yana’s story, and everything she’s doing for children in Dorset.

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“If your children are eligible for free school meals, we’d like to encourage you to sign them up to take part in the HAF programme.”

The HAF programme will run during the Easter holidays, where both children who are part of the refugee resettlement programme as well those who are eligible for benefit-related free school meals will have access to a variety of free activities and nutritious meals.

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I am the editor in chief of Blackmore Vale media, which includes the New Blackmore Vale, New Stour & Avon, Salisbury & Avon Gazette and the Purbeck Gazette, having been a reporter for some 20 years. In my spare time, I am a festival lover, with a particular focus on Glastonbury. I live in Somerset with my wife and two children.