A teenage refugee from Ukraine has been sharing her passion for tennis with school children from Dorchester.

Yana Protsak was forced to flee Ukraine with her mother at at 13, but thanks to a scheme run by Dorset Council the now 14-year-old is giving back to the community she now calls home.

She discovered her love for tennis when taking part in the coucnil's Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme in 2021, after her mother signed her up for holiday sessions with Dorchester Tennis Club.  

Dorset Echo: Yana playing has competed for the club in Dorchester in EuropeYana playing has competed for the club in Dorchester in Europe (Image: Dorset Council)

Yana quickly felt welcomed at the club, which helped her to settle in to her new surroundings, and coaches at the club soon recognised her potential and encouraged her to join the club.

She said: "I had played tennis before, but I really progressed once I got involved with the club."  

Once Yana’s mother had secured a job, she was able to afford one-to-one tennis lessons, which only went to further her skills. 

The lessons paid off and Yana seized the opportunity and competed internationally with the club, taking part in tournaments in Holland and Belgium.  

Yana added: "It was so much fun to travel there with my friends. I have some incredible memories." 

Dorset Echo:

Over Christmas Yana decided she wanted to give back to the community by helping with sports sessions at Sunningdale School in Dorchester.  

All the children taking part were also doing it through the HAF programme which Yana had used, and she instantly felt connected to them.

Her tennis coach, Michael Willlemse, commented on how Yana is  ‘a great help’ and is an ‘inspiration to the children’ as well as stating how proud the club are of what she has achieved.

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

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

“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.” 

Find out more about the HAF Programme and how eligible families can sign up: Holiday activities and food (HAF) programme - Dorset Council