Outaouais summer camp prepares to welcome children fleeing Ukraine war

·2 min read
Around 50 volunteers were on hand at the Outaouais camp on Saturday, tidying up the site and making some big repairs as organizers get set to welcome roughly three dozen Ukrainian refugee children later this summer. (CBC - image credit)
Around 50 volunteers were on hand at the Outaouais camp on Saturday, tidying up the site and making some big repairs as organizers get set to welcome roughly three dozen Ukrainian refugee children later this summer. (CBC - image credit)

Members of the local Ukrainian community are fixing up a western Quebec summer camp that fell into disrepair over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, just in time to welcome dozens of children fleeing the war.

Around 50 volunteers were on hand at the Outaouais camp Saturday, tidying up the site ahead of the children's camp planned for July.

Theodore Kozak helps run the site, which is owned by the Ukrainian Catholic Church, and has been coming to the area since he was a kid.

He hopes to give both the children showing up this summer and their parents a sense of "playfulness" and "normalcy."

"They unfortunately come from a place of terror, where bad things have happened to their country," he said.

"We're trying to give them a sense of pride for our culture. Our community is trying to welcome them for a great experience at the camp," he said.

Kozak's father, Paul, is the camp's committee chairman and says he wants people coming to the camp to de-stress and escape the realities of the Russian invasion, which has gone on for nearly three months.

"Most of us are either [of] Ukrainian origin or have some connection to the Ukrainian community," he said. "We felt when this war broke out, when Russia invaded Ukraine, it was an attack on all of us. And it's something that's just gut-wrenchingly hard, and it's something we all feel in our bones."

While the camp buildings are in good shape, maintenance work is required. Volunteers were working hard to fix electrical and plumbing issues Saturday, while others were busily preparing the dormitories.

CBC
CBC

Support needed, organizer says

Musicians, artists and dancers will be part of the summer programming. Organizers expect the nearby lake will be used often, but say they need more support for the camp to be a success.

"At this point we're reaching outside of the Ukrainian community, because the Ukrainian community is a bit exhausted," said Mike Ryndzak, one of the camp organizers.

"I'm sure in Ottawa we can do better. We will have many people willing to support this cause."

Beyond financial support for costs associated with insurance, nurses and lifeguards, Ryndzak says they're also hoping to have therapy options available for attendees.

"If we have to deal with professionals, we know there is a cost involved," he said, adding they'd appreciate "any contribution" at all to help.

Because most of the kids coming to the camp won't have basic items like swimsuits, bug spray and sunscreen, organizers are also hoping to have a stockpile available. They're also seeking items to help improve the dormitories, including night stands.

"A little bit of funds is exactly what we need," said Ryndzak.

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