By Barb Brouwer
Shuswap residents are again opening their hearts and doors to people fleeing war.
Thanks to the efforts of more than 60 volunteers from Sicamous to Chase, three Ukrainian families will be welcomed over the next two months – two families in August and the third, about a month later.
Additional host families, funding, volunteers and household and clothing items are required.
The group, Shuswap Support to Ukrainians, is headed up by Jean-Luc Desgroseilliers, chief instructor at Shorei-Kai Canada Karate Shuswap Dojo. No stranger to logistics, Degroseilliers served with the Canadian Armed Forces for 32 years.
Transferred from Ottawa to Bagotville, Que., as chief of logistics in 1996 on the eve of the disastrous flooding in Saguenay-Lac St. Jean, Desgrosseilliers was immediately put in charge of relief efforts.
“I quickly learned how to adapt,” he said. “This is similar, but now I have more time to adapt.”
Volunteers are assigned, according to their interests, skill sets and available time to one of 12 teams designed to make the transition to life in Canada as easy as possible for the newcomers: education, employment, financial, fundraising, general support, health, housing, in-kind donations, orientation, social and recreation, transportation and welcoming.
One of the key areas is to provide help to the newcomers in filling the appropriate forms so they can secure federal and provincial funding and register with the BC Medical Services Plan.
The families are coming to Canada under the auspices of the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) program, announced by the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship in March.
“They are leaving the countries as refugees but they are not arriving here as refugees,” Desgrosseiliers said, pointing out CUAET has a different set of rules, which allows Ukrainians and their immediate family members of any nationality to stay in Canada as temporary residents for up three years. “It’s a streamlined program; they’ve cut a lot of red tape and using the word newcomer is more welcoming.”
The group has set up a Shuswap Support to Ukrainians GoFundMe page, which is accessible at www.shoreikankarateshuswap.ca/ukraine.
Would-be volunteers to one or more of the support areas can complete an online form on the website, where Desgroseilliers provides weekly updates.
A fundraising Ukrainian Dinner will be held at the Salmon Arm Legion on Saturday, Aug. 27, and will include a silent auction. Tickets will be available in the near feature and will posted on the website.
“We have up to now seven children coming and some of them will need car seats and booster seats,” he said.
“It’s all stuff we take for granted, but these people need to start from scratch.”
Desgroseilliers joined the Air Force at the age of 17 and served in many countries. He was first posted to Europe in 1989, just before the Berlin Wall came down. He visited many Eastern Bloc countries and saw conditions improve over the years.
In February, the Blind Bay resident fell asleep while watching a war movie and woke to see news coverage of the War in Ukraine.
“It was heartbreaking,” he said.
“It was almost 20 years of progress gone in a moment and I needed to channel my anger into something positive.”
For more information, email Desgroseiliers at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-833-2911 or go to www.shoreikankarateshuswap.ca/ukraine.
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