Two teenage Ukrainian refugees will arrive in Victoria next week thanks to lots of community support.
Help Ukraine Vancouver Island, a volunteer-run group helping Ukrainian refugees, was contacted for help by a family fleeing Ukraine.
Karmen McNamara, with Help Ukraine VI, said the mother of a family of three reached out looking to fly her teenage daughter and son to a safe place like Victoria.
The family fled Mariupol to a small Ukrainian village in mid-March with nothing. The family would like to relocate Canada in the future, but currently decided to send 18-year-old Tanya and 16-year-old Tim by themselves. Their younger brother, parents and grandparents staying in Ukraine until the situation becomes more dangerous.
McNamara said this was an unusual request for the group as it typically helps adult refugees and their families.
“They weren’t technically unaccompanied minors because the 18-year-old has custody of the 16-year-old so they technically fell into our program and not into programs that would help unaccompanied minors,” McNamara added.
Help Ukraine VI volunteer Harriet Tuppen said being a mom herself, the call for help resonated with her and she decided to house the teens.
Tuppen added her family, including two teenage girls and a son, is excited to welcome Tanya and Tim.
“It was actually one of my daughters that when we originally started discussing the wave of refugees that were having to leave Ukraine, she just sat there and said we should take some and my son immediately said I agree,” said Tuppen.
The Tuppen family will house Tanya and Tim for at least a year and register them for school or university.
“It’s easy to feel very overwhelmed I think in the face of so much despair and destruction, but for this family, this is everything for them. We are creating a new world for them,” Tuppen added.
To get the teens to Victoria, Help Ukraine VI needed to do some fundraising.
The group has funding set aside for refugees, but it is used for medical tests, emergencies and getting families settled. Meaning there isn’t anything for flights.
Help Ukraine VI started a GoFundMe page, with the goal of raising $3,000 to cover both Tanya and Tim’s airfare.
In 22 hours, the page raised more than that, sitting at almost $4,000 by Monday afternoon.
“It’s a testament to the generosity of our community and the support of our community and I am so grateful,” McNamara said.
She added the excess funds raised will be added to the pool of money set aside to help Ukrainian refugees get settled on the Island.
Tuppen booked Tanya and Tim’s flights to Victoria Monday morning, with the teens set to arrive June 28.