When the war in Ukraine began making headlines back in February, 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 act. They did — spearheading what has become a community-wide effort stretching nearly 9,000 kilometres, from Sechelt to Kharkiv.
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 14 families to safely flee Ukraine and begin settling into a new life on the Sunshine Coast.
Community support has been a big part of the charity’s success .
“The Coast has stepped up,” says Rother. “I am overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity.”
TELUS Friendly Future Foundation has proven to be 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 their homes with little money and few possessions.
Rother says the grant has been crucial to helping families find their feet amid trauma and uncertainty.
“These are people whose lives have been completely turned upside down,” she says.
TELUS has also donated 50 prepaid phone cards — something Anico-Taveras says is essential to help newcomers connect to local support systems, as well as loved ones abroad.
“The possibility to call and text made people start to feel like they are not lost, that they are not disconnected,” she says.
The first Ukrainian family landed in May.
“It’s so positive,” says Anico-Taveras of the experience to date. “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.
The fact 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.”
Six months since first landing in Canada, all the adult newcomers have now found work and the children are in school.
“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 investigating the possibility of renewing their efforts in January to bring even more families over. They believe the Sunshine 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.”
Every year, the TELUS Friendly Future Foundation provides millions of dollars in grants to more than 500 local charities across Canada. To donate directly to TELUS Friendly Future Foundation, visit friendlyfuture.com. To learn more about how you can help Ukrainian newcomers on the Sunshine Coast, contact email@example.com.