The Rotary Club of Grande Prairie is working to help settle people and families from Ukraine in Grande Prairie through the Ukrainian Relief Committee.
Chair Joel Park says the organization and people involved recognize that many of the millions of refugees that have fled the country are looking to come to Canada, and want to make the transition for those looking to come to Grande Prairie as easy as possible.
“Initially, we communicate with them on Facebook to let them know what the opportunities are like here and what the city is like. Once they’ve acquired their visas, that allows them to come to Canada under a three-year work permit after they arrive here on a plane. We will billet them usually for a couple of weeks.”
That time allows the organization to assist them with everything from getting a social insurance number to getting bank accounts set up, Canadian cell phones, and health care numbers.
“We then work on helping them get jobs to make sure they’ve got some income. We also get them into apartments right away too,” says Park. “We will often help them with furnishing that apartment, their first month’s rent, and whatever else is required.”
The program has brought more than 20 Ukrainians to Grande Prairie, with hopefully more on the way. The Facebook group created for the program is getting 60-70 requests from families interested in coming to Grande Prairie each day, plus more people joining.
“The rate that they are arriving is increasing. We’re expecting to get a couple of dozen more in the coming weeks. By the end of July, we could have an additional 50-70 people come here. We don’t know when they are coming until we see their flights. That can be sometimes in as few as three or four days in advance,” he says.
In order to help get them settled in their accommodations, the Rotary Club is looking for assistance from the community.
“The first one is billeting. We need people to help put them up in their homes for a week or two. The second way they can help is by donating items. We have an explicit list that we’re creating by family. You can also donate cash through that website, which will directly support them,” he says.
The funding for the program is coming from Dream Home Lottery ticket sales to this point.
“We just want to thank anyone that bought dream home tickets this year. It’s allowed us to do so many things, but being able to set up this program and help refugees as a result of those ticket sales means a lot to us.”
While Park is glad to see the program picking up steam, he’s also watching the financial numbers closely.
“The cost associated with getting each family set up is about $2,500 to $3,000. We’re going to keep going until we run out of money. I will be approaching city council on Monday to ask for some additional financial support with the project,” he adds.
To learn more about the program, become a billet family, or donate to the incoming Ukrainian refugees visit the Ukrainian Relief Program website.