A massive shipping container, filled with all kinds of donations from Kelowna, has safely arrived in Ukraine.
“It’s a relief,” said Anna Dimitrov, a Kelowna resident who was born in Ukraine. “To know that it actually safely arrived, to people in need in those parts of the war zones, (it) just warms my heart that it’s there and people who need it the most have access to it.”
Dimitrov said when she heard about the donation drive back in March, she had to get involved.
“I think we all, as humans, we resonate with it,” she said. “And, as Canadians, we have a good history of empathizing. Usually, that’s what you’re associated with, so it’s a great relief to know that we are part of it.”
The donation drive was spearheaded by the Church of Christ Kelowna, with Ukrainian-born Nazarii Pavlina taking the lead.
Pavlina, along with all the volunteers, including Dimitrov, were all blown away by the response from community members.
“Overwhelmed from the response from our community,” Dimitrov said. “It’s definitely heartwarming to see how people are able to help.”
The shipping container was filled with clothing, non-perishable food, medical supplies, baby items and toiletries.
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The supplies were taken to the southeastern part of the country, among Ukraine’s hardest-hit regions.
Organizers of the drive received a heartwarming video showing the goods being unloaded, along with a short clip of a family thanking everyone for the donations.
“Who would ever think that we as Canadians far away can be part of this?” said Dimitrov. “I don’t have words. It’s just such a warm feeling in my heart.”
Dimitrov said the gesture should instill a huge sense of pride in the community.
“They should be proud, absolutely,” she said. “That’s their deed.”
A lot of local attention has also now turned to Ukrainians who have fled the war and are seeking refuge in the Okanagan.
A Vernon church has taken an active role in helping the newcomers.
“They come off the plane with whatever they can take,” said Simon Lutsenko, a church elder. with the Slavic Christians of Evangelical Faith. “A lot of them fled and were barely able to even take any kind of documentation, so they come with nothing.”
The church has already helped 30 families settle in the Okanagan and expects to help more.
“We do things from gift packages, finding places for them to stay, foster homes, finding them rentals, finding vehicles, connecting them with Vernon Immigration Services. Helping them basically get on their feet,” Lutsenko said.
Those wanting to help or needing assistance can register on the church’s website.
Money and accommodation are the most urgent needs, according to Lutsenko.