Helping Ukrainian refugees
Brian and Sharon Holowaychuks live on Vancouver Island in Canada. Brian’s grandparents came to Canada from Ukraine, so as you can imagine, the Russian invasion of that nation has been very personal for the couple. Well … they decided to do something to help. The Holowaychuks are converting their 15,000-square-foot resort property into a Ukrainian refugee home, called the Ukrainian Safe Haven. Says Brian …
“We’re in a position, in a place, in a time where we could help make a bit of a difference. And I thought, you know, it’s time to stand up and be counted.”
The Holowaychuks bought the resort in East Sooke, known as the Grouse Nest, last year. It sits on a 33-hectare (about 81.5 acres) property surrounded by trees, wildlife and overlooking the ocean waterfront.
Originally, they were going to convert it into an art gallery and events centre, which they’d already started remodeling to do. But Brian said those plans can now wait.
“I’m calling the plumber saying ‘Okay, all that stuff we took out, we gotta put it all back’.”
Brian hopes that for Ukrainians coming to Canada they can find the Ukrainian Safe Haven as a place to rest and feel safe and that they can stay as long as they need to.
So far, the local community has shown a flood of support for the project, with volunteers and supporters coming in to help or donate, Brian said. Stewart Johnston, a Victoria-based lawyer, decided he wanted to help out by registering the project as a non-profit at no cost …
“This is an extremely important cause and I’m really impressed with what they’re doing to help. I wanted to help out.”
With help from volunteers, they’ve completed enough of their remodeling to host the refugees who should be arriving within the month.
A young person with a heart of gold
Maria Balboa is a college student who also works as a bagger at the H-E-B in Corpus Christi, Texas. On Monday, April 4th, she was bagging for a woman who had two little boys with her. When it was time to pay, Maria said the woman only had $19 left on her SNAP card and couldn’t afford the rest of the total.
“She was going to put back the groceries instead of a couple of items that she needed for dinner that night. I asked the cashier what the remaining total was and she said it was $137. Immediately I heard a voice inside my head saying, ‘pay for the groceries’. I stopped to think for a second but then I heard again, ‘Pay for the groceries Maria!'”
The woman tried to refuse the generous offer but Maria insisted. She paid the bill.
“$137 was quite a bit of money for me that day, but still I knew that I would get it back on payday and maybe she wouldn’t.”
On her next shift, Maria was called into the manager’s office. She thought she was in trouble. It turns out the woman whose groceries she paid for filled out a survey …
In the survey, the woman explained her financial struggles. She is providing for her two grandchildren on her own and working a low-paying job to keep the siblings out of foster care.
“I was ashamed not having enough money and she insisted to pay for them. Today she made me cry but happy tears. Thank you from the heart for [your] kindness. My grandkids and I have managed to pull through since January it’s been very tough but God put this young lady at the bagging area for us. I wish I could have gotten her name.”
Maria said she was brought to tears from the kind words. The store’s manager, Mark Moeller, ended up reimbursing Maria for her good deed. She also received a goody basket with groceries.
I found the concept behind the following story intriguing and wondered if this might not be one way we humans could better understand each other. It’s called the Human Library and it’s located in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Instead of reading a book, you spend 30 minutes learning about the person, or the “human book”. The goal of the Human Library Organization is to address people’s prejudices by helping them to talk to those they would not normally meet or speak with.
“The Human Library Organization is a global movement working to build spaces in the community for personal dialogue about issues that are often difficult, challenging and stigmatizing.”
The Human Library was created by Ronni Abergel, a Danish human rights activist and journalist who became interested in non-violence activism after a friend he describes as a “troubled youth” survived a stabbing in Copenhagen. He wondered if a human library could bring people together peacefully like a traditional one. He launched the first Human Library at the Roskilde Festival in Copenhagen in 2000. It ran for four days with eight hours of conversations each day. More than 1,000 people took part.
The next Human Library was hosted in Oslo, Norway, by Abergel for the Nordic Minister Councils youth assembly. The first permanent Human Library was established in Lismore, Australia, in 2006. As of 2022, the project has grown to have partners in more than 80 countries across the world. Most happen as events, although there are a few permanent Human Libraries.
Check out their website … I’ll be curious to get your take on this one. I see it as maybe a way for people of different backgrounds, religious beliefs, gender identification, and more to learn about others, people who aren’t just like them. It may be a way of promoting understanding, something along the lines of what Daryl Davis did when he opened lines of communications with members of the KKK and converted many.