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Volunteers step up to help Ukrainian refugees

Peter Shokeir | editor@fitzhugh.ca

It’s the ultimate form of volunteering.

Jasperites have been stepping up to help out those fleeing the war in Ukraine.

Using social media, Jasper resident Nancy Addison is connecting Ukrainian refugees with locals able to offer housing or employment.

Addison has been speaking with refugees and posting their profiles on social media, and she has also been reaching out to businesses to see if they had any job vacancies.

“But what I’ve asked every single one of them to do—and they all have done it, and this is an important factor in why these people are coming here—is everyone’s given free rent,” she said.

“They’ve taken people into their spare bedrooms, and some of them don’t even have bedrooms. They’re building bedrooms in their basements. They’re scurrying and getting furniture and trying to figure it out.”

Addison began the project about four weeks ago.

Because her four children have grown up and flown the nest, she has a large house with room to spare.

She offered her place as a refuge to any family in need and paired her offer with full-time employment from a restaurateur in Jasper.

Within two hours, she was inundated with requests.

She eventually chose to take in a family of four with a dog, but there were still others who needed help.

Most refugees are women and children, since Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 and 60 are compelled to stay and oppose Russian forces.

“It’s just upsetting every day to speak to these people and understand the issues they’ve been facing, let alone finding a place to live and to work and try to support their children,” Addison said.

“It’s been a real emotional rollercoaster for me. The people of Jasper and Valemount have rallied behind me in such a way I could have never had dreamt.”

So far, 54 refugees have found homes in Jasper, with eight of them already arriving; 17 others are heading to Valemount, and two of them have arrived there.

Including other communities, Addison has found homes for 93 refugees.

Former councillor Bert Journault, who recently moved to Edmonton, has volunteered to go to the airport several times to meet refugees destined for Jasper.

“He’s really proud of what Jasper is doing,” Addison added.

With hundreds of vacant job postings in Jasper, Addison said bringing in Ukrainian refugees was also a way to help solve the labour crisis.

“It’s just been amazing, and I think it will probably save Jasper in the end, because my daughter says every single motorhome out of Vancouver has been booked for months, so that would be an indication for me what kind of tourist season we can expect,” Addison said.

“It’ll be massive, and every business is going to be needing employees and needing to be on their toes, and yeah, these Ukrainians can save us. It’s win-win, but because of a very sad situation.”

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