A fundraiser was held on Sunday, August 21st, at the Callander Legion. The goal was to raise money to help a Ukrainian family get established in the area. Natasha and Paulina—Natasha’s six-year-old daughter—left Kharkiv to escape the war and have lived with Keri and Angela Underwood in Powassan for about six weeks now. The Underwoods hosted the event and plan to continue helping the family get ahead in their new home.
The war “affected me and my wife quite a lot,” Keri Underwood said, “and we wanted to do something to help.” The couple knew they would not be able to go to Ukraine to help—although their skills would be welcome, as Keri is a paramedic and Angela is a nurse—so they looked into ways they could help from home.
Opening their home seemed like the natural thing to do. “Our thoughts were if there was a family who wanted to come here, we had enough room for them in our house and we would be able to support them in that way.”
Before long, the two began registering with a couple of organizations offering to help but did not hear back. They heard similar stories from others, “so a lot of people were taking things into their own hands” to help those leaving Ukraine. “We still to this day haven’t heard from any of those organizations,” Underwood explained.
However, with the help of some Facebook groups, the Underwoods connected with Natasha and her daughter. The four chatted and had a few video calls, and they all seemed to click. The Underwood’s daughter, who is four, was also close in age to Paulina. It was an ideal matching.
And it’s been good, too. The six weeks they’ve been sharing the Underwood’s Powassan home has been a good experience all around. Soon after arrival, the Underwoods helped the two get health cards, set up a bank account, and get established in the country. This fall, Paulina will be attending the same school as the Underwood’s daughter.
The community is very welcoming of Natasha and Paulina, as evidenced by the turn out at the Legion fundraiser. The Underwoods organized the event, but many others helped make it a success. Local radio star Kevin Oschefski from Country 90.5 was the master of ceremonies for a day of live music. Underwood performed, as did Gayle Crowder, Ernie Lang, Tim Kerr, Jason Brock and Shawn Sasyniuk. Each donated their time—and their pipes—to the cause, and over 100 attendees hung on every note. Plus, Les Compagnons hosted a kid’s zone area to keep the tykes entertained and occupied.
The people came together and managed to raise $3,660 for the new family. That includes ticket sales plus donations made at the event. Fundraising is ongoing, as the overall goal is to put Natasha and Pauline in a better spot financially, so that eventually, they can find a place of their own. A GoFundMe page is available if people care to donate (search New Beginning-Ukraine family fundraiser), and Keri also launched the North Bay Ontario and Surrounds Ukrainian Help and Hosting group on Facebook. This group connects locals helping those fleeing the Ukrainian war.
In the meantime, the two will stay with the Underwoods “until they are a bit more financially stable,” and will help smooth the transition from Kharkiv to Powassan. “The war hit us hard, and we have a daughter too, and what if we were in that situation?” Underwood said. “It was just something that me and my wife Angela wanted to do. We just felt very strongly about wanting to help.”
“We feel it’s what we need to do.”
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca