Funds needed to support Ukrainian families

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A Dunedin woman has tapped into her friend network to collect donations that will help Ukrainian families arriving in the region.

Robin Vaile became aware of the local effort and took it on as a personal service project to seek out specific supplies needed for Ukrainians coming to Canada.

She said the story of how the families found their way to neighbouring Grey County is truly inspirational, and Vaile wanted to do what she could to support Susanne von Toerne, who she considers to be a true hero.

Von Toerne, and husband Heiner Philipp, have personally committed their time and financial resources to getting three families to safety.

In March, von Toerne flew to her home country of Germany after receiving a call from a friend to help extract a family from an area of Ukraine that had been hit hard by Russian attacks.

Once she got there, she and three other women took rented vans and drove to meet them in a remote area near the Poland-Ukraine border. They took as many people as they could across the border into Germany, and then decided to go back to a refugee centre in Poland for more.

Of the 35 Ukrainians that she has been supporting, eight have arrived in Canada. (They came via Istanbul, where the waiting list was shorter.)

The family that they picked up at the border is still in Germany, waiting for their work visas to be processed. She is expecting Alina Sirenko and her family next week, or the week after.

“You never know,” she said. “It’s unpredictable.”

Another young couple went to a host family in Flesherton and has since been temporally housed in Collingwood.

A third family arrived a little more than two weeks ago and went to a host family in Southgate, but will be moving to a house in Beaver Valley this weekend.

The Sirenko family will be set up in a rental home in Owen Sound, because there are so few options for housing in the rural area.

These families have been supported by von Toerne, who has paid for airfare, accommodation, and organized donations to clothe and house them, and assisting them in finding work.

She said there are a lot of obstacles to independence in the rural area when it comes to transportation and childcare.

Von Toerne said she has learned a lot since starting this process in March and believes if there isn’t a supply of housing, the area cannot support those fleeing Ukraine, especially when they can’t drive immediately and affordable used cars are hard to come by.

In terms of financial support she has also set up one man with $6,000 worth of tools so he can resume work as a mechanic, there are also some dental costs, and a vet check for one child’s dog.

Von Toerne is also supporting the families by providing childcare, and finding the children places at summer camps, where they can interact with other children and begin to learn English.

To receive financial donations, they have also aligned themselves with Grey County Cares, though the Markdale Rotary Club, which is in the process of setting up an account, and donations are coming in there.

Donations can be sent by mail to Lynn Silverton, RR 1 Flesherton, NOC 1EO. Make cheques payable to the Rotary Club of Markdale, and note that it is for Grey County Cares.

Von Toerne said she has been very grateful for the generous donations but said she does not need anymore clothing of housewares. She is in need of Foodland gift cards and money.

To get in touch with Susanne von Toerne, email

A Go Fund Me Page has been set up, search “Help the Sirenko family settle in Flesherton” at www.gofundme. com.

Vaile urges others to give where they can.

“The need will be huge when it comes,” she said.

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