Protesters gathered in front of the Vernon Ukrainian Orthodox Church Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022, to show their support for Ukraine after Russia invaded the country on Thursday. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

North Okanagan preparing for arrival of Ukrainian families

Specific webpages have been established for those wanting to help

For the past six weeks, Vernon agencies have been connecting with government and Ukrainian representatives and organizations to prepare for the potential arrival of Ukrainian families in North Okanagan communities.

While the number of people who may choose to come to our area cannot be known, the organizing group which includes Vernon & District Immigrant and Community Services (VDICSS), the Local Immigration Partnership and Nexus BC, is compiling information about available resources in preparation of helping new arrivals connect to community supports including language lessons, education, work, child and health care, transportation, recreation and housing.

“Many financial and employment resources are being coordinated at the provincial and federal levels,” said VDICSS interim executive director Philipp Gruner. “However, at the local level we are pleased to announce that all of our services and programming are available for Ukrainian temporary residents and their dependents entering Canada, whether here on open work permits, tourist visas or study permits. We have greatly appreciated the offers of support coming in across all communities from people who want to help, many who speak Russian or Ukrainian.”

In response, VDICSS has set up specific webpages with information on where people can offer assistance, from housing to transportation, and where they can learn about the supports for Ukrainians who may already be in our community or will be arriving in the future.

Local residents who want to help can provide their email address to organizers who will email requests as families arrive and their specific needs are known. The sign-up form and information on other ways to help, including donations, housing, and employment is at vdicss.org/welcomingukrainians.

Information for Ukrainians who have already or will be arriving in the North Okanagan is available at vdicss.org/ukraine2022.

“Local families have been connecting with their relatives and friends helping them escape and come to Canada,” said Andrea Malysh, a Ukrainian community representative. “Since we have a strong Ukrainian community in Vernon and surrounding area, we have had many volunteers offer support and we are sharing information as it becomes available.”

Malysh has been fundraising locally for humanitarian aid for Ukraine. She is also working with the national and provincial Ukrainian Canadian Congress in conjunction with Provincial and Federal governments in obtaining the necessary support for newcomers from Ukraine under the newly created Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) program. She is re-establishing a local chapter of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and encourages anyone who would like to be involved to contact her at 250-309-6948.

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