A group of about a dozen families, all willing to host or house displaced people from Ukraine in the Valley, has come together through the Chateauguay Valley pour/for Ukraine Facebook group to support one another as they prepare to welcome victims of the Russian invasion into their homes.
According to Stephanie Maynard, who launched the Facebook group which now has over 300 members, as many as six Ukrainian families may be arriving in the area over the next few weeks. All are waiting on visa approvals through the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel program, which will allow those who come to remain for up to three years as temporary residents.
The local hosts are now meeting every two weeks to exchange information and concerns, and to figure out solutions as a group. “We are holding hands and helping each other,” says Debbie Purdy, who has been communicating daily with Ukrainians looking to leave Europe to learn as much as possible about them so they can be paired with suitable families in the area. “They feel like they are walking blindly right now, and they are full of fear,” says Purdy, who admits frustration is starting to build over visa delays. To help expedite the process, she has been helping to translate forms, scan documents and ensure they are sent to the correct government offices. Purdy says she has also been describing the Valley to them, so they understand the realities of its rural location. “It takes a lot of effort to establish trust,” she explains. “They are independent, they are proud, and do not want to be asking for help.”
Maynard agrees, saying those she has spoken with are reluctant to depend on others. “They have worked hard to build a life in Ukraine and want to find jobs as soon as possible to become independent. They all mention a willingness to learn [the] language, and to work hard. They are very, very grateful for the kindness Canadians have shown them so far,” she says.
A community ready to help
Both Maynard and Purdy have been impressed, but not surprised, by the community’s willingness to help.
“The response has been incredible,” says Maynard. “We are all eager to help, but we’re now in a bit of a waiting pattern until they arrive, and then we’ll have a better idea of what needs to be done,” she explains. In the meantime, the group is working with individuals who are willing to assist families with flights. Maynard suggests another way to help is by purchasing gift cards from grocery stores, pharmacies, and other local businesses, as this would give the arriving families more independence.
The group is asking people to hold onto clothing and furniture until they have a better understanding of the need; however, they are certain Ukrainian families will be needing vehicles almost immediately. “Anyone with vehicles to donate, or [who are] willing to help fix up vehicles in order to make them safe to donate, would be amazing,” says Maynard.
She also suggests that people might consider donating their time. “As host families, there will be a lot on our shoulders, so any assistance to support [us] in other ways will be very appreciated,” she says, while pointing out that “anything to help with the basics of feeding, employment, childcare, and education are going to be the focus when they arrive.”
To learn more about the local response to the war in Ukraine, or to offer help, join the Chateauguay Valley pour/for Ukraine Facebook group.