The invasion of Ukraine can seem a world away, but for one Strathroy girl it has hit home. Now she is doing something about it.
Charlotte Veenvliet’s friend from school was forced to say goodbye to her father as he left Mount Brydges to fight with resistance forces against Russia.
“Her whole family lives in Ukraine,” explained Charlotte, 12.
An experience at her school gave her the impetus to start making child and adult-sized bracelets that she is giving in exchange for donations of $5 and up.
Kids being kids, perhaps needing a way to shield themselves emotionally from such a traumatic event like war, were making jokes at school.
“One day the teacher was talking about it and other kids in our class were being disrespectful, so the teacher asked [my friend] to tell the class about her experience with it,” said Charlotte.
“They were upset.”
Her mom Jenn described Charlotte’s reaction.
“She was having a lot of trouble sleeping for a few nights, and there were some tears about her friend and feeling empathetic towards what her friend must be going through,” said Jenn.
“She kept picturing what it must be like to have your town get ruined and have people do things that … hurt kids and things like that.”
She added that Charlotte saw the tornado damage last summer near her last home in Barrie.
“Houses on our street were destroyed, and she couldn’t believe that people would do that to a place on purpose,” explained Jenn.
Charlotte has a goal of reaching $2,500 with her blue and yellow bracelets, each having a heart linking them together. Charlotte is passing donations onto the Canada-Ukraine Foundation based in Toronto, who is aiding refugees and people in the hardest hit regions of Ukraine with food, hygiene products and other aid through GlobalMedic.
The reaction from residents of Trillium Village Senior Homes and her local United Church congregation was very supportive, helping her already raise $1,850.
“There were a number of people who lined up after church that Sunday to place an order and to thank Charlotte for her project,” said Rev. Dr. Brad Morrison.
Donations for bracelets can be made through Charlotte by emailing email@example.com. She asks that you specify how many adult and child-sized bracelets you would like.
Help when they get here
One of Charlotte’s friend’s grandmas was able to get to Canada. The rest of her family and millions of others are in a precarious situation.
Organizations and individuals are sponsoring refugees from Ukraine, with the federal government opening the doors to Canada and deploying troops to Poland on a humanitarian mission to help some get here.
Ukrainians and their family members can stay in Canada as temporary residents for up to three years under an emergency measure from the federal government. They will also be eligible for a free open work or study permit, which will allow them to work or study across Canada.
Ukrainians and their family who are already in Canada can also apply to extend their visitor status or work permit for up to three years or apply for a new work or study permit, with fees being waived.
Carly MacArthur with London & Middlesex Local Immigration Partnership said her organization is trying to connect services to refugees from Ukraine, and the people from places like Syria and Afghanistan who still need help, too.
The biggest job they do is information sharing, getting the people who need help to the people who can provide help. The things people need right away with are housing, language, and just finding one’s way around.
“More broadly, making London and Middlesex a place that is welcoming to immigrants and reduces systemic barriers so they settle here successfully longterm,” said MacArthur.
She is hoping to get more involved with the Middlesex part of the her coverage area.
“I think it’s important to promote rural areas to newcomers because a lot of times I know from growing up in a rural area, it’s less isolating being in a small town that’s more close-knit. People make you feel more included. There are more things going on that are kind of tailored to a community aspect, so there’s a lot of things rural areas can offer newcomers and return I think newcomers and refugees settling in those areas bring a lot to these communities by increasing their diversity, getting new ideas going,” said MacArthur.
There is also a need to help students, including Russian students who have been cut off from resources due to sanctions meant to punish their government. Information on where all help is needed can be found at london.ca/immigration/support-those-affected-ukrainian-crisis.
Chris Gareau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Middlesex Banner