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Canada welcomes Ukrainians with kindness, generosity – and critical connectivity

TELUS team members and customers, along with the TELUS Friendly Future Foundation, have contributed $5 million in humanitarian relief to support people impacted by the conflict in Ukraine. TELUS mobile connectivity is there to keep newcomers connected to local support systems and loved ones abroad
Uliana and Danylo Haidaienko, newly settled on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast, display handmade quilts donated to Ukrainian newcomers by members of the Sunshine Coast Quilters’ Guild.

When the war in Ukraine began making headlines early in 2022, many Canadians were inspired to help but uncertain what to do for those caught in the conflict.

For Judy Rother and Daria Anico-Taveras, those same headlines were a call to action. And they did just that — spearheading what has become a community-wide effort stretching from the pretty seaside town of Gibsons, British Columbia, to the shelled-out border city of Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Over the last year, under the umbrella of the registered charity Spirit Dance Centre for Spiritual Ecology, Rother and Anico-Taveras have led a coordinated effort that has enabled 20 families to safely flee their wartorn home country and begin settling into a new life on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast. Two more families are scheduled to come to the Coast this year.

Community support has been a big part of the charity’s success to date.  

“The Coast has stepped up,” says Rother. “I am overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity.”

TELUS Friendly Future Foundation is a key partner to the charity-led initiative, providing a $20,000 grant through the TELUS Vancouver and Coastal Community Board to help offset the costs of food, rent, clothing and transportation for the newcomers, many of whom were forced to flee with little money and few possessions.

TELUS team members and customers, along with the Foundation, have contributed $5 million in global humanitarian relief to support people impacted by the conflict in Ukraine. The support has been crucial to helping families find their feet amid trauma and uncertainty.

“These are people whose lives have been completely turned upside down,” says Rother.

Through TELUS Mobility for Good, the company has provided 3,450 SIM cards and prepaid credits, worth over $345,000, for voice and data mobility plans to support Ukrainians in need arriving in Canada, including those settling on the Sunshine Coast. Anico-Taveras says the cards are essential in helping newcomers connect to local support systems, as well as loved ones abroad, on a reliable mobile network.

“The possibility to call and text made people start to feel like they are not lost, that they are not disconnected,” she says.

It takes a village

The first Ukrainian family landed on the Sunshine Coast in May, 2022 – among the more than 150,000 Ukrainian nationals and family members who have arrived in Canada under the federal government’s emergency travel program to date.

“It’s so positive,” says Anico-Taveras of the experience. “The parents have already found how to integrate. The kids look like kids who already have normal lives back. What can be better?”

Making all this happen, though, has proven to be no small feat. The ongoing effort has, quite literally, taken a village.

Along with TELUS, dozens of local organizations, businesses and residents have all stepped up to offer support – from cash, clothing and handmade quilts to opening their homes as host families, waiving sports fees, offering memberships to the local botanical gardens, and flying the yellow and blue Ukrainian flag.

For Anico-Taveras, the mission to bring Ukrainians to the Sunshine Coast has hit close to home — she and her family emigrated to Canada from that country two years ago and have had to watch the war from afar.

“We feel that it is a help we can provide to our country at this moment. We can help our fellow Ukrainians find a second home,” she says.

That so many of her neighbours and businesses continue to offer support for Ukrainians has reaffirmed for Anico-Taveras that her own move to the Sunshine Coast was the right one.

“I’m very proud to live where I am now. We knew Canada was kind, that it is supportive, that people are amazing,” she says. “We were sure when we invited the families here that there would be a way for them to slowly adapt and also succeed at the end of their journey settling here.”

In the months since first landing in Canada, the families have embraced big changes, including new jobs, a new language, new schools and new friends. One couple had their first child, a girl, born in March in the Sechelt hospital. Five of the families have left the Coast as they move forward with their lives in Canada.

“Every person feels like they are already independent. They know enough to be in control of their lives. They’ve found friends here,” says Anico-Taveras.

Rother and Anico-Taveras are now working hard to bring two new families to the Sunshine Coast this year. They believe the Sunshine Coast, and Canadians from coast to coast to coast, will continue to step up.

“It’s a supportive community that doesn’t stop supporting,” says Anico-Taveras. “We’ll just come up with new ideas.”