Catholic schools partnership helping to bring Ukrainian families to a safer place

·4 min read

Thirty-four Ukrainians displaced by the Russian invasion will soon arrive in Medicine Hat.

Several groups and family units, comprised primarily of school-aged children, are expected to arrive in the next one to two weeks. The groups join four families being brought to Medicine Hat through the Hatters for Ukraine initiative, first reported May 6.

The groups’ relocations were facilitated through a partnership between Medicine Hat Catholic Board of Education and Lethbridge’s Palliser School Division.

“This whole project started with a phone call from my counterpart in the Palliser School Division in Lethbridge,” Dwayne Zarichny, MHCBE superintendent, told the News. “Palliser has – just like we do – an international student program. An agent from Ukraine they work with asked if they would help co-ordinate families or groups coming over to Canada. They then reached out to me to see if our jurisdiction would be interested in joining in on the project because, depending on the number of folks who are coming over, they could need a little help in placing everyone. We were excited to have a chance to do something to support Ukraine so we said, ‘Absolutely.'”

Immediately, Zarichny and his team at MHCBE, put out a call for host families.

“We put out a call, initially, to the families who were interested (as well as those who have hosted for) our own program as well,” he said. “We actually had the majority of the groups placed within a week or so.

Group members will reside with host families for a minimum of three months, during which support will be provided to them with the goal of aiding their introduction to a new country, culture and language.

“The intent is for them to stay in Medicine Hat for three months,” Zarichny said. “That gives them enough time to get a job and earn some money to have a down payment for an apartment or a home to rent and get everything settled.”

Not only did Zarichny and his team help connect the Ukrainians with host families, they have also designed a program within the division so the children – 28 in total – can return to school-life.

“From the schools’ perspective, we’re looking at having them engage initially in non-academic work, so a little bit of normalcy returns to their lives,” Zarichny said. “It also gives them an opportunity to meet other students, start building friendships and so on.

“Once we meet the students, get to know them a little better and have an idea of their needs … we’ll have supports in place for them immediately.”

Zarichny and his team have now partnered with Hatters for Ukraine in an effort to consolidate resources.

“We’ve recently connected with the Hatters for Ukraine,” he said. “We’re really excited to be working with them because many hands make light work.”

Although Medicine Hat’s two Ukrainian support initiatives are now working together, Zarichny says donations are still appreciated, especially monetary donations or gift cards, which will be used to pay for basic necessities, such as medical care, food and individual needs.

“Each individual is different and, of course, their needs are different,” he said. “So just having access to funds to support them, makes it a much easier and smoother process because we can get what they need, specific to them.”

Nevertheless, Zarichny is grateful for the support he has already received.

“We’re really impressed with the response, overall, from this Medicine Hat project,” Zarichny said. “I think, a lot of people who are at home watching what’s going on in Ukraine and there’s a desire to really help to make a difference. When the opportunity came to be able to help these families, they jumped at the opportunity.

“The need isn’t going away in the near future, unfortunately. But in my experiences, when a call has been put out, Hatters responded enthusiastically. As Hatters, we all look after each other.”

Donations can be made at the St. Vincent de Paul Society through Holy Family Parish Church or the Community Foundation of South East Alberta. Donations must be marked for Ukrainian refugees. Funds will be shared between all Ukrainians arriving in Medicine Hat.

KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News

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