Lviv, Ukraine - February 26, 2022. People in railway station of western Ukrainian city of Lviv waiting for the train to Poland. Bumble Dee / Shutterstock

Volunteers and hosts needed to help Ukraine refugees in Burnaby

Thousands of refugees could arrive in Burnaby in the next few months depending on the availability of hosts and accommodation.

By Srushti Gangdev | April 20, 2022 |5:00 am

With an influx of refugees from Ukraine expected to arrive in BC in the coming weeks and months, a group of community members is preparing to welcome some of them to Burnaby—and they’re looking for help in doing so.

Jonny Sopotiuk has started a group on Facebook, entitled “Burnaby Welcomes and Supports Ukraine Refugees,” in an attempt to recruit more Burnaby residents willing to open their hearts and, in some cases, their homes to those who have fled from Eastern Europe.

Canada has put in place an emergency travel authorization process for those wishing to come here, meaning they don’t have to fulfil traditional visa requirements, and there is no limit on the number of Ukrainians that can apply for that.

Sopotiuk anticipates that 20-30,000 refugees may choose to come to BC.

Several families have already arrived in Burnaby, and thousands more could be on the way in the next few months depending on the availability of hosts and accommodation.

“Right now, we are recruiting volunteers and community members to support Ukrainian refugees moving to Burnaby. We are in need of hosts who can provide short-term or longer-term accommodations, and we are organizing additional neighbourhood groups of volunteers to support Ukrainian refugees on their arrival,” Sopotiuk told the Beacon on Tuesday.

Sopotiuk and a group of community volunteers have joined forces with the Maple Hope Foundation and United Way in the process.

So far, nearly a hundred people in Burnaby have signed up to be hosts or volunteer in other ways, in an outpouring of support Sopotiuk described as “amazing.”

But if you can’t host a family of refugees in your home, there’s plenty of other ways to get involved.

The group is searching for volunteers who can help with running errands, practice English both virtually and in-person, and help with career mentorship and job opportunities.

Financial donations to organizations or to individual families also go a long way, and in-kind donations of goods and services (particularly clothing and household items) are especially important.

“We are especially looking for volunteers who speak and/or write Ukrainian and Russian,” Sopotiuk said.

Local churches have collected donations, and Burnaby MLA Janet Routledge and New Westminster-Burnaby MP Peter Julian have also reached out to provide support as well.

As for why Sopotiuk felt compelled to do something in the face of the massive refugee crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February—it’s all to do with personal experience and wanting to make a difference.

“I am Ukrainian. My great grandparents came to Canada fleeing oppression and famine. I was feeling helpless watching the senseless attack and war on Ukraine, and I wanted to do something positive to create community and support people who have lost everything,” he said.

“I have hosted refugees from Syria and Africa in the past and it was an incredibly rewarding experience.”

If you want to get involved, you can join the Facebook page for volunteers and submit a volunteer intake form indicating how you’re able to help.

Srushti Gangdev

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

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