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Ukrainian Immigrant Proposes Plan for Local Refugee Housing
When Volodymyr Makyeyev immigrated with his family to Manitoba, he left behind many family members in Ukraine including aunts, uncles, cousins, and even his mother. He didn’t imagine that eight years later they would be trapped in a war zone. His mother, located in the central region of the country, is now hosting family members who fled early on from eastern communities. His cousins who remained in the east have been out of contact for weeks now.
Makyeyev came to Manitoba as a pastor for the Baptist Church, first at a more remote northern location outside of Swan Valley and then south to Neepawa. It’s his deep ties to Ukraine alongside his faith that have prompted him to try to take direct action to help people fleeing the area. Because men between the ages of 18 and 60 are not allowed to leave Ukraine right now because of conscription, most of those refugees are seniors, women, and children.
At the same time that he is encouraging people to keep Ukraine in their prayers, Makyeyev is working with an immigration consultant in Toronto who has been trying to house families with foster children, in one specific case a family that has been caring for nine children. It’s much easier to find a home for three or four people than it is to find a home for 10 or 11, and Makyeyev has been looking beyond the usual suspects. He has identified two unoccupied church manses in Neepawa that haven’t been sold off by their respective churches yet, both of which could potentially house refugee families.
With HyLife building several temporary housing facilities for its incoming workers, some of that space could also potentially be used on a temporary basis, or the community could use it as a template to construct something that would be specific to the needs of incoming refugee families. As Makyeyev says, even when the conflict finally ends, the humanitarian crisis will continue for a long time.
One thing Makyeyev stresses is that we need to be “wise, careful, and thoughtful” as we approach the issue, and not make empty promises to people who have been through a tremendous amount of trauma already. It is important to work through official channels with vetting processes in place to ensure the safety of everyone involved. There are of course many challenges facing families coming to Canada, including language and employment, but more than any of those is finding safe, reliable and adequate housing for vulnerable peoples.
Anyone locally who has ideas or contributions towards this type of project, whether it’s empty real estate or volunteer skills and labour, is encouraged to get in touch with the local Settlement Services office or with Pastor Makyeyev at the First Baptist Church.
As Neepawa and area’s local access television station, NACTV has been serving the community since 1977. The station is a community-owned not-for-profit organisation that broadcasts 24 hours a day and reaches homes throughout Manitoba and Canada on Bell ExpressVu 592, MTS Channel 30/1030, and WCG 117 as well as streaming online at nactv.tv.
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Neepawa is located in western Manitoba, about two hours west of Winnipeg and 45 minutes southeast of Riding Mountain National Park.