Dozens of Ukrainian families seeking refuge now settled in Cochrane

Families displaced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine gather with host families at Frank Wills Memorial Hall in Cochrane on June 17, 2022. PHOTO BY PATRICK GIBSON /Postmedia

By Patrick Gibson || June 20, 2022

Volunteers have been using Facebook to communicate with Ukrainian families seeking refuge, helping them connect with resources and services.

An estimated 50 Ukrainian families seeking refuge from ongoing conflict in their own country have now settled in Cochrane with assistance from a small group of volunteers and partnering agencies.

“These are just remarkable ladies who are volunteering their time, basically, to help the families settle and be connected,” said Fleeha Ahmad, program coordinator with rural settlement agency Rockyview Immigrant Services.

One of them, Chantal Barber, has volunteered most of her time over the last two months to the relocation effort.

“It’s easy to put a family into a house, but I think it’s far more difficult to make them feel like this is their new community and that they’re part of something,” said the Cochrane local.

She and a small group of like-minded volunteers have been using Facebook to communicate with Ukrainian families seeking refuge, helping them connect with resources and services. They’ve been picking up families from the airport and getting them acquainted with Cochrane while partnering agencies seek out longer-term hosts.

“I’ve created an intake process for both the families and the hosts just based on my own work experience in community and population health, and I have a lot of trauma-informed care education,” Barber said.

Displaced Ukrainians, hosts, friends and family gathered for a lighthearted event at Cochrane’s Frank Wills Memorial Hall in Cochrane on June 17.

“I only bought 60 name tags, so when we ran out in the first 20 minutes I was like, ‘Uh oh,’” she recalled.

They ate dinner on blue tablecloths with yellow flower centrepieces, and the far end of the room was abuzz with children chatting in Ukrainian as they checked out the toy and craft stations..

Children play at a craft table at Frank Wills Memorial Hall. PHOTO BY PATRICK GIBSON /Postmedia

“I think that an event like this — where they have the ability to connect with other families and the hosts have ability to connect with other hosts — they actually strengthen their ability to contribute to the community,” Barber added.

“They build off each other, their resources, they make friends and they have some sense of control back in their life, especially when they’re coming from a place where they’re forced to leave all of their friends and family and come to a place where they know no one.

“They were all exchanging phone numbers and talking and their kids were playing and they looked genuinely happy and like they could breathe.”

The resettlement of Ukrainians throughout the country is facilitated through agencies like the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS). These agencies help refugees navigate government documents and local resources, find options for schools and temporary housing, and assist with job and English language training.


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