Cambridge chef sets up project to help Ukrainian refugees find jobs in UK


A well-known Cambridge chef is going the extra mile to help Ukrainian refugees come to work in the UK. Almost 2,000 miles to be exact as Steven Saunders travels to Ukraine’s borders to speak to refugees who want to come to the UK to work in the hospitality industry.

Steven, owner of willow along with his business partner Shaina Galvin, launched the monumental project to fly over and welcome 1,000 Ukrainian refugees who will all have jobs waiting for them when they arrive. As the crisis in Ukraine continues, efforts are being made to help refugees fleeing the war-torn country.

The government asks the population to offer their houses to the refugees. However, Steven and Shaina are on a personal mission to bring those who come to work and home. They called it The Odessa Project after a town in Ukraine that Steven “loves” and “regularly visits”.

Read more: Cambridge News

The celebrity chef, who previously appeared on Ready Steady Cook, created the campaign to help refugees find “sanctuary and safety”. Steven is calling on local businesses to join the campaign and provide housing, wages and employment which he says will also help the UK as the country is “desperately in need of hospitality staff”.

After reaching out to businesses on Facebook, Steven got 100 sites ready to help right away. He said: “I have 100 hotels but I need more, I want to bring in a thousand refugees which is more like 253 hotels. We can fly over them, part of the deal is that the hotels and restaurants will pay for flights and I also pay for some flights.

“We’re bringing them in, we’ll get the visas expedited, they’ll be taken to hotels and picked up. It’s a big project and I’m sitting and watching the news and it’s just crazy and I’m frustrated and I’ I think what can I do to help and that’s it and I’m going to talk to these refugees.

“The next step is the green light from the government I have the program in place and the hotels want staff so I just need the green light saying you can have these visas we are not looking for the support or the government funding, we’re just saying can we get them in.

Steven Saunders and his business partner, Shaina Galvin

Businesses across the country are keen to help, but he says he needs more from Cambridgeshire. Steven spoke about the scale of the task, saying that it had sometimes “upset” him and many times he had “cried” about it, but that they were “getting there now”.

He said: “For me, the motivation is to bring refugees to sanctuary and safety. I’m doing it because I believe I can make a difference and I want to sleep at night and right now I can’t. sleep at night.”

Shaina Galvin, Steven’s business partner and owner of The Willow Tree restaurant in Cambridge, says, “We are passionate about helping refugees find safety. We watch this nightmare unfold and we feel helpless! This got me thinking, we have jobs with accommodations here, surely that could be a promising solution for a few at least, we now know that we are one of many companies that can provide these opportunities if the government agree to act quickly.

In addition to this project, Steven and Shaina are contributing further by hosting a charity event in March at their dining domes in the Willow Tree Gardens to raise funds for Unicef ​​Ukraine Appeal. They hope to raise thousands of dollars for Unicef’s Ukrainian fund.

For more information on The Odessa project, visit Click here.

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