Donated furniture and household items have been taken to six apartment units at Skyline Living in preparation for Ukrainian families who will soon arrive in Red Deer.
Ukraine immigrant Olena Karachentseva, who moved to Red Deer eight years ago, is sponsoring six families and has been overwhelmed by support from the apartment company and Lorne Doktor, the maintenance worker for the buildings.
Doktor said he just happened to learn that the families were coming and contacted his neighbours to collect donations.
“Of course, it expanded to their families and friends. Everyone has been very generous,” Doktor said.
He said almost everything the families need has been collected. Money that was donated was used to buy some basic household supplies.
Karachentseva said visas are being arranged for the families, a total of 18 people, and hopefully, they will arrive before April 15.
She said the families lived in the cities of Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia, and it took in few weeks for them to make it out of the country. They are now in Poland, Germany and Italy waiting to come to Canada.
“I just need to help,” Karachentseva said.
Frank Bauer, executive director of Care for Newcomers, formerly Central Alberta Refugee Effort, said he did not know how many Ukrainians will come to central Alberta, but a lot are expected.
“Canada itself has not committed to a fixed number, but I could easily see 30,000 to 40,000 Ukrainians coming into Canada. The fact that the prairie provinces already have a high population of Ukrainians, a good portion of those people will likely come to Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba,” Bauer said.
He said the majority of them will be women with children, while the men stay behind to fight, so families will be split up, which is different than most refugees or immigrants.
“It’s a horrible thing that’s happened.”
Care for Newcomers will be hiring more staff to help the children, and the capacity of its language training program is being evaluated.
He said people have been contacting the agency to find out how they can help.
“We don’t have any firm answers yet. Until we know exactly when people will arrive we’re holding off on donations of things because we wouldn’t have any place to store them. But monetary donations are always welcome.”
He said Ukrainians are getting temporary visas extended for three years and work permits, and the federal government only confirmed this week that they will be able to access all the services normally available only to permanent residents. Health care will also be provided by the province.
“Next week we’d like to start conversations with other stakeholders in the community to see what it is we can jointly do. There’s so many things that need to be in place and existing capacities will not be enough,” Bauer added.
This week Central Alberta Refugee Effort officially became Care for Newcomers to show that it serves the broader community of newcomers to Canada.
The agency was founded in 1979 by a group of concerned citizens who wanted to assist with the settlement of Indochinese refugees fleeing the aftermath of the Vietnam War.
For more information visit www.carefornewcomers.ca.