Due to the ongoing War in Ukraine thousands of Ukrainians have been forced to uproot their lives and find a new place to call home.

Some of these Ukrainian newcomers have come to the Cochrane area to start anew. Moving to a new continent is no easy task especially when the move is abrupt and in many cases forced.

Chantal Barber has been trying to help ease the burden of this move on Ukrainian families. One of the ways Barber is trying to help is by connecting them with Cochrane & area residents who are willing to provide housing to Ukrainians in need.

Barber says the idea came from wanting to find a way to get involved

"It started out with me wanting to go and volunteer in Ukraine. In a past life, I was a nurse, but my husband was less than inclined to let me go to war. So, I opted to come and see how I can help here and I have a background in community and population health and some trauma informed care consideration. So, I thought, maybe I can help some of these vulnerable people that are looking for good safe homes, and help navigate the process on this side of the planet. I started by wanting to host my own family. I saw quite a few barriers in the process and ultimately have connected about 40 families to hosts in Cochrane & area, and then a couple throughout Alberta as well."

"I'm half Ukrainian, so there's certainly some loyalty feelings there and also just the entire circumstances around this war is just ridiculous and unnecessary, and most importantly, if I was in this situation, on the flip side, where I had the rug pulled beneath my relatively normal life and I would hope somebody would help me and with the best intentions."

In addition to connecting families to one another Barber also has been receiving donations and working with the Cochrane Lions and The Cochrane Rotary Club raising funds through the FCSS to help provide additional support to Ukrainian families.

"I've been very grateful to have some generous donors, and we've created a partnership with success so that if people want to donate funds, they can do so in support of Ukraine through FCSS. I work in partnership with those agencies donating the funds as well as FCSS, on allocating that money to support these newcomer families, so some things that I've helped create are English classes that we offer two days a week at no cost, that includes the instructor's material built in. In addition to that we have emergency funds for purchasing certain items, whether that's like baggage delays, which are huge right now and buying those necessary toiletries also for we have a volunteer running specifically to help allocate donations for those that are living independently and for hosts that want to support."

While Barber has done a lot to help Ukrainian newcomers, she says that housing continues to be one of the biggest hurdles for Ukrainian families to get over as they try to get settled in Cochrane.

"We know housing is a crisis across the board, but these people have an even bigger barrier in that is that they don't have a rental history or a credit history and cosigner. So, people that are renting suites for their properties and are willing to do so while omitting some of that information. Please reach out to me and it would be wonderful if I could, you know, connect you with a family that would be more than willing to rent that property."

Lastly Barber would like new Ukrainian families who haven't yet contacted her and need assistance to please do so.

"There are so many families that haven't reached out to me, or more importantly, haven't reached out to Fleeha Ahmad who runs Cochrane Rocky View immigrant services and she's our Cochrane representative settlement counselor, so we can't provide them these supportive services if we don't know they're here. There's no ego involved in this. Everybody just wants to help and just wants to support, no matter how people were matched or connected, it doesn't really matter. We just want to make sure they have access to the right, supportive services."

If you're interested in renting out some property, or want to help out in any way you can contact Chantal via email at chantalcfl@gmail.com. Or if your new to the area from Ukraine and need assistance getting settled contact Fleeha Ahmad with Cochrane Rocky View immigrant services via email at fahmad@ccisab.ca.