Several families from Ukraine will soon be calling Lacombe home. Lacombe resident, Olya Kay who is Ukrainian herself is preparing to help out seven families fleeing the war with the help of the Lacombe Ukrainian Support Group. Kay says she has familial ties to some of the families who will soon be calling Lacombe home.
“With my sister and her family, they wanted to come because they couldn't go back to Ukraine. Then actually a few friends reached out with their families and they wanted to come and I said, ‘of course.’ Then, and we kind of added a few more families that I found through Facebook groups,” explained Kay.
The families are coming to Lacombe under the status of ‘displaced persons’ rather than refugees which makes coming to Canada a little more challenging with fewer supports available.
“Basically, refugees have a lot of programs that are geared towards helping them resettle in Canada. They also have financial assistance and housing assistance as well but ‘displaced persons’ don't. The visa that these Ukrainians are coming with will allow them to work. There are some other benefits as well, like they will help you with English and job searches but it’s not as streamlined as the refugee programs. Right now, there is no dedicated financial support for them or housing support for that matter,” explained Kay.
Kay and the Lacombe Ukrainian Support Group have been able to find temporary housing and supplies for the immediate basic needs of the family. They have also created a public wish list of items to help support the families who will be in need of funding and supplies upon their arrival in Canada.
“We did a Google form that people can fill out and we listed and items that we need for these families. Then when people donate, we don't have a place to store them so we ask people to hold onto these items for a few weeks or a couple of months…It's a list of items that we created originally for the first five families who were coming but now we have seven,” explained Kay.
The donors will be notified when the items are needed and able to be delivered to the people requiring them. There is also an overflow section of the list where people can submit extra items. With the concern of Ukraine Crisis Scams, they are trying to simplify the process of deliveries.
“Most of us have full time jobs families and you know we don't want to manage money even with items. We don't have a place to store them. We’re just trying to make it as little strain on us and the people that are donating as possible,” said Kay.
However, if you don’t have a lot of extra money or items to donate, Kay says people can help out the family by offering transportation or in physical labour in moving some of the donated items.
“We are actually looking for people who are willing to drive them because none of them will be able to drive or have access to a vehicle at least the first month or so. They need to get some documents in place like an Alberta Health card and an Alberta ID then some others like job interviews and things like that. So, just helping them with that would be appreciated,” said Kay.
Many Ukrainian families will be looking for jobs as soon as possible. Kay says the families are eager to be independent, self-sufficient, and are looking forward to a sense of normalcy.
“They want their kids in school right away. They don't want to wait. Those poor kids haven't been able to go to school. There are a lot of these families waiting for visas for a couple of months and they're stuck in Poland or Germany or another country where they don't necessarily have access to school. Even if they do, they don't know the language,” explained Kay.
Generally speaking, Kay says at least one family member in each family has learnt some English.
If you have other ideas of helping out these families, you can email the Lacombe Ukrainian Support Group at email@example.com. You can also contribute to the wish list of items for the families by clicking the link here.