People wait outside an immigration office in Brussels, Belgium, on March 7 after fleeing from Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of the country. CNS photo/Yves Herman, Reuters

Canadians urged to help Ukraine with cash

By 
  • March 9, 2022

Cash and care go hand in hand in the Catholic response to the crisis in Ukraine.

Development and Peace-Caritas Canada has already sent $75,000 and during the first week of the war the organization raised another $200,000. When it comes to effective aid to more than one million refugees who have already crossed Ukraine’s western borders, or the displaced families still in Ukraine, nothing helps as quickly or as much as money, explained Development and Peace executive director Carl Hétu.

“You can just imagine all the needs,” Hétu said. “It’s beyond food. It’s beyond a place to stay. It’s beyond blankets. Let’s not forget that it’s winter in Ukraine and it’s as cold as it is here.”

When people organize to collect clothing and other items to ship to friends in various global hotspots, they’re often unaware of the disconnect between what they are shipping and what people need now. The time, difficulty and expense of actually getting a truckload of supplies into a war zone usually means boxes get stuck in warehouses along the way to their final destination.

“If they want to do it, great. But they need to realize that maybe half of their stuff will never be used,” Hétu said.

On the other hand, $100 in Development and Peace’s bank account almost immediately becomes $100 Caritas Internationalis can distribute to where it’s needed — whether it be to a Caritas office in Poland helping refugees or to a local, parish-based Caritas in Ukraine that’s ferrying families out of danger.

The two Caritas organizations in Ukraine — one for the Greek Catholic Church and the other for Ukraine’s Latin Rite Church — have honed their operations over the past eight years of war in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Because Caritas branches are parish-based, they are in touch with the hidden needs of the most vulnerable, Hétu said.

In particular, Caritas has in recent years specialized in helping vulnerable children — often kids who have been left in the care of their grandparents while their parents work abroad.

“Children end up in the streets — very, very up for grabs, for human trafficking and sexual gimmicks,” said Hétu.

At the Office for Refugees, Archdiocese of Toronto (ORAT), executive director Deacon Rudy Ovcjak is getting ready for a new wave of refugees.

For now, as Ukrainians land in Poland, Moldova, Hungary, Slovakia and elsewhere, there’s no direct path to resettlement in Canada. Ottawa has made it almost automatic that Ukrainians will be granted visas to visit, work or study. But there are no refugee resettlement targets.

“It (the special visa for Ukrainians) can be extended up to two years, but what then?” asks Ovcjak.

Canada’s largest refugee sponsor agency wants to see a pathway to permanent residency and citizenship through resettlement. “We’re reaching out to Immigration (Refugees and Citizenship) Canada, both to the minister and to the bureaucrats, to find out what their plans are,” Ovcjak told The Catholic Register. “We will absolutely be 100 per cent supportive of refugee resettlement to Canada.”

Meanwhile the Ukrainian community, both Greek Catholic and Latin Rite, will have to learn the ins and outs of refugee sponsorship to be ready whenever Ottawa does decide to open up the resettlement option.

“They’ve never needed the assistance. They’ve no knowledge of refugee settlement,” said Ovcjak.

Plans are in the works for a round of ORAT’s “Introduction to Resettlement Information” sessions aimed at this community.

Regular Roman Rite parishes with no direct connection to Ukraine should be ready too. Ovcjak already envisions a possible trip by ORAT officials to the region to select refugees for Latin Rite parishes to sponsor.

The Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) raised $200,000 over the first week of the war and now has a $500,000 matching fund provided by an Alberta donor.

Chalice, the Bedford, Nova Scotia-based Catholic child sponsor agency also has a $250,000 matching fund provided by a private donor. Chalice’s Ukraine Regional Assistance Fund funnels money to 4,572 children the charity supports in Ternopil, Lviv and Pochaiv inside Ukraine.

The Chalice donor page can be found online at chalice.ca. To give to CNEWA, go to cnewa.org/ca/.

Canadian Jesuits International are on the ground both inside Ukraine and in neighbouring countries. To make a donation go to canadianjesuitsinternational.ca.

People have already been generous and there’s every reason to believe it will continue, said Hétu.

“This conflict is not just a Ukrainian conflict,” he said. “It’s not just an invasion of Ukraine. It’s an invasion of the entire world.”

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.