Kitchener-Waterloo

Waterloo Ukrainian church's 'gift of hope' sends ambulance to support those back home

Since September, a Waterloo Ukrainian Orthodox church has been fundraising to repair a donated ambulance. Now, they hope to ship the ambulance at the end of the week so it can reach Ukraine in January.

Ambulance donated by a parishioner, church raised $6K to cover repair costs and shipping

A young man and elderly woman wearing winter clothing stand outside in front of an ambulance.
Bohdan Khomets and Claudia Griebenow stand in front of the ambulance that will be sent to Ukraine at the end of the week. The church collected items like medical supplies, wheelchairs and children's clothing that will be sent along with the vehicle. (Carmen Groleau/CBC)

Parishioners at the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of St. Sophia in Waterloo, Ont., have been hard at work for months to raise money to repair a donated ambulance they hope will reach Ukriane in January.

The ambulance was donated by a fellow parishioner and since September, the church raised $6,000 to cover the costs of repairs and shipping.

"There is a desperate need in anything medicine related, medical supply related, and an ambulance is a great gift for who ever gets it," Bohdan Khromets, a parishioner who came to Canada from Kyiv three years ago, told CBC News.

Khromets said he is very aware of the dire circumstances back home. He still has family in Ukraine, including his mother who works as a doctor in Kyiv.

"[The ambulance] goes to the eastern part of Ukraine and will serve the needs of the community there," he said.

"We really see it as a gift of hope from our community for the people in Ukraine, who will use it to their own benefit and hopefully it will save a lot of lives."

An elderly woman sits beside a young man in a Ukrainian Orthodox church.
Claudia Griebenow and Bohdan Khromets are parish members at the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of St. Sophia in Waterloo. The church has been fundraising to send an ambulance to Ukraine. (Carmen Groleau/CBC)

In some ways, Khromets said he feels it's a way he can help his mother, her colleagues and his nation from afar. 

"I am very grateful that we have a project like that and it's directly related to my family," he said.

'Our church has a big heart'

The church also spent weeks collecting items like medical supplies, vitamins, wheelchairs and even children's winter clothing that will got to an orphanage in Ukraine the church supports.

"A lot of Ukraine doesn't have electricity, water or heat right now," Claudia Griebenow told CBC News.

She said many of the women in the church have also taken the time to knit items like scarves to send with the ambulance.

"Our church has a big heart, but you cannot do a project of this magnitude without the help of others and our community has been very generous with us," she said. 

Griebenow said the church has people from different backgrounds and religious groups reach out to offer their support, including the group Waterloo Region Grassroots Response to the Ukrainian Crisis.

The groups have helped the church send eight skids of supplies and clothing to Ukraine since the start of the war, she said, and the work will continue.

"This huge project that we've done so far shows that we are ready to do the serious volunteering work and so we'll continue," Khromets said.

Side view of an ambulance.
The ambulance needed a few repairs before it was shipped to Ukraine. The church raised $6,000 for those repairs and shipping costs. (Carmen Groleau/CBC)

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