Ukrainian sign language interpreter provides evacuation information for displaced deaf people in Poltava. Photo: UTOG Facebook Page
Marco Levytsky, National Affairs Editor.
Some 2500 deaf Ukrainians have been evacuated to safety thanks to the generosity of the Canada-Ukraine Foundation.
Transportation has been by bus, train, private vehicles, and some of the deaf citizens from eastern Ukraine have been moved to deaf centres and schools in Western Ukraine. Humanitarian aid is also being used for food, water, and life necessities.
CUF funds are also supporting countless others staying in the country, and to cover the crucial sign language interpreting services, says Debra Russell, former President of World Association of Sign Language Interpreters and member of the Alberta Stands with Ukraine group.
Sign language interpreters have largely stayed in Ukraine and were volunteering until we were able to support them. The government updates are interpreted, as well interpreting is happening at hospitals, government offices for people to secure papers required to leave, in deaf centres where people go for the latest updates on the war.
“Since the war broke out, we have worked closely with the Ukrainian Society of the Deaf (UTOG), liaising with its President, Iryna Chepchina to identify where families with Deaf children have gone, track potential teachers who worked at some of the Deaf schools in Ukraine, and have shared that information with other European countries that may be receiving the children,” says Russell.
“We know that many deaf refugees have crossed into Poland, Hungary, and Moldova, and some have found their way to be with friends or family in other countries such as Sweden, Lithuania, and Italy. We have also supported the deaf refugees that are being resettled by the Polish Association of the Deaf and the Hungary Association of the deaf. “Both associations have offered temporary accommodation, humanitarian aid, and communication assistance through sign language interpreters. The interpreters are working in person at border crossings and remotely,” she adds.
Other Canadians organizations have also to the aid of Ukrainian deaf people. The Ukrainian team competing in the World Deaf Curling Championships which were held in Banff from March 12-27, had been training in Latvia for three weeks prior to the invasion. The government funding for their travel to compete in Canada was immediately cut off as all funds were directed to the military. The Ukrainian coach reached out to the Technical Director of the World Deaf Curling Championships, Jonathan Guinta, who then worked with the Canadian Deaf Sports Association, and the Alberta Deaf Sports Association to provide funding for travel, accommodation and per diems.
Of the group of 10, five decided to stay in Canada. Russell facilitated the information exchange on options for staying, helping the Ukrainians set up Federal Government accounts in seek visa extensions, worked with them to make a choice of staying in Edmonton or Calgary and then sought temporary homes in collaboration with the Edmonton Branch of Ukrainian Canadian Social Services.
“We believe that three of the five will wish to stay and build a life here, and two are hoping to return home at some point. The Alberta Deaf Sports Association was able to secure some funds to help support the host families and offer each Ukrainian a monthly stipend until we can secure work visas and help them get employment,” says Russell.
The Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal (UHA) was established by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) and the Canada-Ukraine Foundation (CUF) in response to the war in Ukraine. Working with governmental and non-governmental partners in North America and Europe, UHA’s humanitarian efforts are focused on the delivery of food, shelter and medicines, and addressing the needs of the millions of refugees and victims of war. To support the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal, visit us on the web: http://cufoundation.ca Cheques can be sent to the CUF office (620 Spadina Ave, suite 200, Toronto, ON, M5S 2H4).
For further information, email: [email protected]
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