Here's how a group from Middlesex County is helping Ukrainian refugees settle in the region
More than 400 community members are coordinating efforts to ensure families can get here
When Russian troops swarmed Ukraine more than a month ago, Richard Hone says he and his wife, Evelyn ten Cate, would sit in horror and watch the news day in and day out.
"The rage was just boiling about what's happening and we decided we'd better turn it into something more positive," Hone said.
Fast forward three weeks later and now the couple from Coldstream, Ont., are putting 10 to 12 hours a day to help those trying to flee from the war-torn country make it safely to Canada. And they're not alone; nearly 400 other community members have stepped up to do the same.
"My mom and [my wife's] dad were welcomed to Canada after the Second World War with open arms," Hone said.
"We felt that in this time of war and the time of need of these people to get out of Ukraine and wanting to come to Canada from Europe, that that's how we could kind of repay that gesture from the Canadians that helped our parents."
The Ukraine Help Middlesex group is made up of community members spread out mostly through Middlesex and the London area. They're working together to help families settle in the region.
Some people have offered their homes to host refugee families, others are donating anything a newcomer will need when they first get here while other members are volunteering their time to assemble welcome baskets and assist hosts.
Hone said the relief effort was all kickstarted after he was connected with a pair of young adults his family will host. The pair was able to flee Ukraine but they're still awaiting their paperwork in order to travel from Poland to Coldstream. In the meantime, they've been able to connect Hone and other community members with more people in need of a hand.
"What happened was suddenly relatives, friends, acquaintances in the hotel that they're all stuffed into or even in the camps or shelters ... are also looking to come to Canada. So we said, 'Well, great. Why don't you start by connecting us with them and we'll find hosts here."
Hone said the visa applications have become a real challenge for many trying to enter Canada, especially since the applications are in English. A number of people in the group have stepped up to help walk people through the application process.
You can sit and watch the news and you can be really depressed and feel helpless. This is a way to help.- Kris Dundas, community member involved in the Ukraine Help Middlesex grou
Hone said the long days his family and the whole community are putting in are worth it.
Earlier this week the first family arrived to the area and they expect at least a dozen more to make their way between May and July.
"I just did a Facetime with our hosts and the family of four who just came in and it was amazing to see those two little children and the happy faces of the parents in a safe home here in Canada," Hone said.
"You can't put a price on that and your time is immaterial."