Michelle Joo joins a rally for Ukraine at the Vancouver Art Gallery on Feb. 26, 2021. (Phil Melnychuk/Twitter)

Michelle Joo joins a rally for Ukraine at the Vancouver Art Gallery on Feb. 26, 2021. (Phil Melnychuk/Twitter)

Ridge Meadows committee supporting refugees from Ukraine

Group has capacity to house more people displaced by Russian invasion

The group welcoming Ukrainian refugees to settle in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows has been supporting five different families so far, and is expecting more to come.

Tom Bowen is the chair of the Ridge Meadows Ukraine Welcoming Committee, and said the group is serving its function so far, and has marshalled the resources to help more people from the war-torn country.

The committee was arranging accommodations for a mother and her seven-year-old daughter, looking for a place close to an elementary school. The woman’s husband is still fighting with Ukrainian forces against the Russian invasion.

Another family moved here, a couple with a 19-year-old daughter. But incredibly, the mother and daughter are going back to their home country due to family concerns. The husband is staying behind, living with his sister.

There is also a couple with a child under three, another couple, and an adult woman, who are all currently living together. These groups and individual are considered families three, four and five by the committee.

Some of the newcomers need trauma care, said Bowen, and others have medical issues. He has been arranging for medical appointments.

Bowen said he had thrift store gift cards from the Hospice Society that they could use to start setting up a home.

“They’re landing here with a backpack, maybe a cell phone, the clothes on their backs, and that’s it.”

The local committee was formed in early March, with help from Ukrainian couple Aleks and Natalia Vrublevskij, and Maple Ridge city councillors Gordy Robson and Ahmed Yousef. Robson had experience taking in 17 people who fled the conflict in Syria, while Yousef worked five years with the U.S. Department of State and Department of Commerce in Kuwait, including experience working in conflict zones. They quickly started assembling resources for newcomers.

READ ALSO: Ukrainian couple and Maple Ridge politicians work to host refugees

“We’re putting it to use,” Bowen said of the committee. “It’s rewarding.”

“You turn on CNN, and all you hear is horror stories,” he added, and said he wonders where the many refugees fleeing Ukraine are going. Since the war began two months ago, roughly five million people have fled their homes there.

READ ALSO: Ukraine’s child refugees a huge challenge for host countries

Bowen said there are now 12 homes in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows that are offering varying housing options, from rooms to suites, that will be available for free through the committee.

READ ALSO: B.C. provides $15 million to support Ukrainians fleeing war

Yousef said he is working at breaking through red tape which keeps some of the newcomers from being able to take English language courses.


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