Ukrainian asylum seekers – how you can help at home

How can you and I – when we are so far away – help those fleeing the war in Ukraine, seeking asylum in European countries?

The images and video footage of over 2 million Ukrainians crossing into Poland, Romania, and beyond these past two weeks are deeply troubling.

Personally, my eyes have welled up with tears many times watching the displacement unfold, young and old surviving a journey they never imagined they would be on, uncertain of where it is taking them. I feel their loss. I also feel anger. And I feel helpless.

I am half Ukrainian. Watching these distant unknown Ukrainian relatives on the move in search of safety casts a light on my ancestors’ undocumented journey over 100 years ago.

Since 1998, I’ve had the privilege to welcome hundreds of asylum seekers into the Kinbrace community. It is a liminal space, standing in the doorway of welcome, extending hospitality to a stranger whose story I don’t know, who is so at risk, so stressed.

Watching Ukrainian asylum seekers move west into Europe, I wonder: “Who is welcoming them? What doors are open to them?”

If the Kinbrace community was located in Europe, you and I would be on the front lines of their welcome.

Being in Canada, we may feel far away from the need.

That said, can I suggest we are not helpless?

Here are three suggestions for action, ways to show solidarity and ways to help in real-time.

The following actions build our own welcoming resilience in Canada. We become better equipped to help those crossing the Canadian border in need of protection. Asylum seekers arriving near you are as much in need of housing, a warm welcome, and refugee protection as are our Ukrainian brothers and sisters.

1. You can strengthen your knowledge and explore opportunities to provide much-needed affordable housing for refugee claimants arriving in Canada. Learn more at the recorded Finding Home: Transformative Places Where Refugee Claimants Flourish virtual event hosted on Tuesday 15 March 2022 at 7:00 PM Pacific. My colleague Mohammed Zaqout and I were privileged to participate in this story-filled presentation hosted by BC’s Multi Agency Partnership. No matter where you live, this BC focused event has information that is applicable everywhere – even in Europe.

2. You can build the resilience and expand the capacity of asylum seeker welcoming communities in your region by donating financial gifts and volunteering your time. Forcibly displaced people struggle immensely to find safe and affordable housing on their journey to protection. Your steadfast and generous support of communities like Kinbrace – like every other refugee claimant welcoming community – means more desperate people are welcomed with wrap-around supports. If you haven’t supported Ukrainian asylum seekers in Europe, you can help others on your own doorstep through Kinbrace. Donate monthly to guarantee a 24-7 welcome. Donate one-time to show solidarity. Displaced Ukrainians will not be arriving as refugee claimants – learn more here.

3. You can further inspire your already-caring heart and imagination with ways to amplify the warmest welcome possible among asylum seekers by joining conversation with others. It is as much a journey of the heart as it is the head and hands. If you haven’t had a chance to read Anika Bauman’s new book (which is already in its second printing), you can read the free online book here or learn more and buy your hardcopy here. Becoming Neighbours – Five Values for a World of Welcome tells a story of transformation where refugee claimants and their hosts flourish together.