The first few years of life in immigration are usually very challenging. A person often has to literally start their life from scratch – dealing with everyday issues, rebuilding social connections, and navigating new laws and rules. All of this often happens against the backdrop of insufficient knowledge of the English language and difficulties in finding suitable work. Psychological factors such as social isolation, homesickness, and separation from family and loved ones also do not contribute to quick adaptation.
But at the end of the tunnel, there is always light. And, as the experience of hundreds of thousands of immigrants all over the world convincingly shows, life falls into a familiar groove after 5-7 years, and a person begins to feel happy in their new place.
Overcoming challenges through compassion
Scientists and psychologists from different countries have carefully studied how the immigration process affects people. Immigration, in terms of the level of psychological trauma, is comparable to divorce or the loss of a loved one. And this is considering that a person mentally and physically prepares for the move and chooses to immigrate on their own will.
Over the past 1.5 years, thousands of Ukrainians have arrived in Canada. The peculiar feature of this new wave of immigration is that all these people were completely unprepared for what awaited them in the new country.
Perhaps today, anyone who follows world news even a little bit knows about the dire situation in Ukraine. Due to Russia’s aggressive invasion, millions of Ukrainians were forced to abruptly leave their homes, their established lives, and families, and seek a safe place to live. I am no exception. After spending 1.5 months in the territory occupied by the Russian military, I realized that I needed to save my life and the life of my daughter. We packed three suitcases and went nowhere. A series of coincidences brought us to Canada, where we didn’t know a single soul. We survived and were able to stand on our own feet only thanks to the openness, kindness, generosity, and humanity of Canadians.
Having experienced firsthand the uneasy path of a person who finds themselves in a completely unfamiliar environment and doesn’t understand what to do, I know for sure how important welcome centers are for newcomers. The help of volunteers is also invaluable, especially when it comes to assistance from the diaspora. To be among people who speak the same language as you and can relate to the difficulties you have to go through is priceless.
Building bridges: Canadians and Ukrainians unite to help newcomers
As of today, there is a unique volunteer organization operating in Toronto, consisting of both Canadians and Ukrainians. To the best of their abilities, they provide assistance to newcomers. Their focus is not only on addressing practical issues but also on expediting the immigrants’ adaptation process. After all, you can only love a place that you know well!
WE HELP! Ukraine to GTA is a non-profit organization aiming at providing support to the displaced Ukrainian families arriving in Canada on the CUAET program. Established in 2022 and with the support of more than 120 volunteers they provide assistance in housing, transportation, delivery of warm clothes and household items, and urgent support as well as informational support to Ukrainian families in GTA and Ontario.
With the incredible support of current hosts and sponsors, the organization provided in 2022 – 2023:
Helped in temporary housing to 300+ displaced Ukrainian families in 23 Canadian cities from Niagara Falls to Kingston, ON;
Organized 28 events, such as Toronto guided tours, Christmas at Casa Loma, visits to Ontario Science Center, ROM, and Ripley’s Aquarium for 2000+ Ukrainians;
Ongoing help with transportation, deliveries of warm clothes and household items in GTA;
Informational support via 8 Facebook and Telegram channels with 36K+ subscribers;
Launched 2 ongoing educational projects (Conversational English lessons and Art Mini Club in Newmarket, ON);
Participated in 6 local festivals (Aurora, Newmarket, Brampton, Scarborough, Richmond Hill, ON) promoting Ukrainian culture;
Placed 40 Ukrainian children / CUAET to the local summer camps (Newmarket School of Fine Art, Tropinka summer camp).
WE HELP! Ukraine to GTA would highly appreciate any support of ongoing cultural and educational projects for Ukrainian families who arrived on CUAET program in Ontario. Cultural events organized by volunteers provide a valuable opportunity for Ukrainian families to meet, network, and receive support, to learn more about the Canadian culture, to learn the Ukrainian language (children) and English language (teenagers and adults), to embrace Ukrainian culture (music, literature, art), to better understand and integrate into Canadian culture as well.
Events like Toronto guided tours and visits to museums help Ukrainian families learn more about Toronto and GTA (history, culture, music, art), their local cities and communities, Ontario and Canada’s landmarks and improve their English language skills. All of the activities are focused on inclusiveness, empathy, creativity, positive attitude, and friendly synergy of different generations.
Anyone who wants to help can send an e-transfer mentioning the project name to the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org or donate the funds on the website: https://www.wehelpukrainetogta.ca
The organization does not have a charity status yet, they can not provide the tax receipts for the contribution, but they will be happy to provide all the reports and receipts on request. WE HELP! Ukraine to GTA volunteers are always happy to find new friends and new Canadian partners and look forward to collaboration in 2023.
This article was written by Iryna Paltseva. She is a Ukrainian copywriter and web developer who relocated to Canada under the CUAET program. You can contact her via email at: email@example.com