On July 2, Mohammad Bhuiyan’s family grew by seven people. The Cochrane IT consultant figured he had the space to host a mom, dad and five kids from Ukraine — and he certainly has the heart for it.
“God has given me enough, enough where I think it’s time for me to help others,” Bhuiyan said.
Bhuiyan also has the experience of being a newcomer to Canada. He moved here 30 years ago from Bangladesh and knows what it’s like to struggle in a new country.
“Using my expertise and what I know to make their life a little bit easier,” he said. “I want to try to give them a little comfort at least because they are going through a lot.”
He insists his new guests see him as a brother.
“I think the best part is I was kind of just being by myself here and then bringing them here and having them feels like another family,” Bhuiyan said.
Read more: Ukrainians fleeing war may want to stay in Calgary permanently as conflict could ‘last for years’
Violetta Nytsyk left Kharhiv — a city heavily damaged by Russian strikes — with her husband and five kids. She’s thankful her children are safe now that they are living with Bhuiyan in Cochrane.
“I live in Canada,” she said. “(It’s) very easy because Mohammed helped us.”
Nytsyk’s husband has been hard at work at his host’s house, painting window trims and painting a Canadian flag on the garage door — sharing his love of a country that has opened its doors to so many.
Chantal Barber has her hands full with a one-year-old but she’s also a full-time volunteer who, with her husband, has hosted three families.
She said with help from the Rotary and Lions clubs, the Bow Rivers Edge Campground and Family and Community Support Services, around 200 Ukrainians are now settling in Cochrane.
“We have a strong and growing community and everybody wants to help,” Barber said. “There’s less people you have to navigate to find the correct person to offer support services.”
The administrator of a Facebook group helping Ukrainian refugees in Calgary, recently posted that he doesn’t recommend newcomers come to Calgary because of high rental prices and a lack of supply. Instead, he suggested smaller communities as a better option.
Read more: ‘It’s been life changing’: Ukrainian refugee and host family celebrate Easter together in Calgary
Barber said while housing might be a bit cheaper in Cochrane, it’s still tricky filling out forms that require rental history and proof of employment.
“A lot of families have stepped up and offered themselves as a co-signer, however, not everyone is willing and able to do so,” she said. “We are working on creating some partnerships with local property management companies to see if we can work something out to help these families, but it is definitely difficult.”