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Families from Ukraine continue to find Valley support

As war rages on in Ukraine, the Valley has continued to show exceptional generosity in raising funds to support and prepare for the arrival of displaced Ukrainian families in the area. Since the Russian invasion began in late February, over $8,300 has been donated to the Chateauguay Valley for Ukraine fund as a result of various fundraisers, including a charity basketball event, a pop-up garage sale, church collections, as well as the sale of t-shirts and donations from organizations and individuals. More fundraisers are planned throughout the summer.

To date, some of the funds have been used to pay for flights, with some Valley residents also offering membership points to cover flight expenses. The local group has already worked with individuals in Alberta to help bring a family of seven to Edmonton, including one woman who lost her husband in Mariupol. They will be staying with the Quinn family in Godmanchester for one night during a connection in Montreal before heading west.

As flights from Paris to Montreal are often cheaper, Stephanie Maynard says she and her partner, Philip Quinn, have temporarily hosted two other families in transit as well. “Many of us offer this option to stop for a few nights after a long trip,” she explains. The Quinns will be welcoming a mother and son from Kiev at the end of June, and at least two other Ukranian families have now received visas and are expected to begin their stay with host families shortly. Several other families have matched with local hosts but are waiting on paperwork.

Quinn Farm in Île Perrot has hired a Ukrainian man who had previous agriculture experience to work on the farm. “We’re very grateful to have him,” Maynard says. “He doesn’t speak English or French, but thankfully a lot of farm work is manual, so it is easier to communicate, and we use a translation app,” she explains.

Maynard was also instrumental in matching her neighbour, Marie-Eve Caza, with Serhii Liashenko and his wife Ania, who arrived from Poland on May 16 with their one-year-old son, Damian. “We had space in the house and a car that we only used occasionally,” says Caza. She admits there has been a change of pace in the home, but it’s one she and husband Dave are up for. “For me, it was simple. If I were in their place, I would want someone to welcome me and accompany me through this process,” she says.

Caza notes the couple like the area and are enjoying the countryside. “We are really lucky to have found such a nice family with whom we get along well,” she says. Each family has their own space, and they share common areas like the kitchen. “We share chores and recipes,” she explains, but admits the language barrier can be difficult. “Every evening we have a meal together and we try to exchange as much as we can. Some evenings are quieter but other nights the conversation goes well, and we laugh when comparing the difference between our cultures,” she says.

Serhii has found a job with the SH Group in Huntingdon; he was interviewed as soon as he arrived. Ania works with Caza at Quinn Farm, with little Damian by her side. “It’s a challenge to work with your baby all day, but for now [Ania] is happy to have a job without a driver’s license or daycare,” Caza says.

Caza says the Valley community has been very welcoming. “The family admitted to us that they were surprised by such a warm welcome,” says Caza. “Everyone is doing their small part, and I don’t think the family realizes yet how much support there is for them,” she adds, noting she is looking forward to more Ukrainians arriving in the area so the young family can expand their network in a familiar language.

Those arriving will eventually need housing with furniture, well-paying jobs with supportive employers, childcare, reliable transportation, and help with language barriers. The list is extensive, but so is the willingness within the community to give support. For example, a local French teacher who has been working with the Liashenko family has volunteered to give French lessons, which will help enormously, says Maynard. In another example, a recent call-out on social media by a host family looking for furniture was met with an immediate response.

“The community is amazing,” says Caza. “I knew our area was full of kindness, but I am impressed,” she exclaims. Caza is also quick to encourage anyone thinking of hosting to do so. “It takes time and energy at times, but it is nothing compared to what the people from Ukraine have to do in order to come here.”

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