A man from the Sarnia region of Ukraine and Poland helps refugees reach Canada

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After more than a month of volunteering in Poland and Ukraine helping war refugees, Johnathan Verroen says he plans to return home to the Sarnia area for a few days later this month.

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In June, he plans to return to Europe for another three months as a volunteer.

“This experience has changed my life,” he said in an email.

Verroen said he, like others, “watched in horror” as Russia invaded Ukraine.

“Over time, I felt this deep desire to come here,” he said. “I had no idea what I would do, but I was ready to do whatever I could to help people.

Verroen said he booked a flight to Krakow, Poland, then spent two weeks there building relationships and helping in a kitchen feeding the refugees.

He worked with a friend to create a Facebook group for refugees looking to come to Canada, then with Anna McRobbie, an Edmonton nurse, set up travel offices in Poland and Ukraine to help refugees fill visa applications.

Johnathan Verroen, from the Sarnia area, and Anna McRobbie, a nurse from Edmonton, have volunteered in Poland and Ukraine to help refugees seeking to come to Canada. Handout

“The Ukrainian people are strong, but most of them we work with are women and children,” he said. “Either their husbands cannot leave Ukraine or they are fighting on the front line. Most are scared and many have lost everything.

Verroen said he created a Google document for refugees who want to come to Canada and need a host or sponsor. He then sends the information to community groups in Sarnia through MP Marilyn Gladu’s office, as well as to local churches or other groups across Canada.

“Most families want to move to Canada and start working right away,” he said.

Johnathan Verroen, from the Sarnia area, center, has volunteered in Poland and Ukraine to help refugee families seeking to come to Canada.
Johnathan Verroen, from the Sarnia area, center, has volunteered in Poland and Ukraine to help refugee families seeking to come to Canada. Handout

“That’s why my team and I are trying to work as quickly as possible to bring them to Canada, but the Canadian visa program is not easy and it was not designed for this type of migration,” said he declared.

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Verroen said they are working to ensure the refugees have housing, transportation and everything they need.

“So I spend many hours a day on my phone network and getting help for the refugees we work with here,” he said.

Verroen grew up in Wyoming and went to Lambton Central Collegiate in Petrolia.

He worked as a manager for a jewelry chain in Sarnia and was transferred out of town, returning home in 2015 to be with his dying father.

Gladu was his youth group leader over 30 years ago and they have remained friends.

“I’m very proud of him,” Gladu said.

“John is out there with his feet on the ground, and we’re here with a community that comes forward and welcomes them with open arms.”

Gladu estimated that about 100 families fleeing war in Ukraine are expected to settle in the Sarnia area. About 20 or more are currently in the Sarnia area, with several more sponsored by Bethel Pentecostal Church and St. George’s Ukrainian Catholic Church expected to arrive in the coming days, she said.

Local groups share information on efforts to welcome and assist refugee families through a “Save Ukraine – Sarnia and Lambton County“Facebook page.

Recently, students in a grade 5 and 6 class at St. Matthew’s Catholic School in Sarnia raised $1,166 at a school carnival to donate to St. George’s Ukrainian Catholic Church to help help support a refugee family.

“I would like to thank our students and staff for their tremendous efforts to help a family caught up in a crisis of war on the other side of the world,” school principal Derek Morrison said in a press release. .

Grade 5 and 6 students at St. Matthew's Catholic School in Sarnia raised $1,166 to help St. George's Ukrainian Catholic Church sponsor a Ukrainian refugee family.
Grade 5 and 6 students at St. Matthew’s Catholic School in Sarnia raised $1,166 to help St. George’s Ukrainian Catholic Church sponsor a Ukrainian refugee family. jpg, SO

“Frankly, Canada didn’t have a big presence,” Gladu said of what Verroen encountered when he started working in Poland and Ukraine with groups helping refugees resettle in countries of origin. ‘homepage.

“France had a table and Germany had a table and the UK had a table and Spain had a table, but Canada had nothing,” she said.

“It was very time-consuming and bureaucratic to get people to get their papers to bring them in,” Gladu said. “In some cases, it takes more than six weeks. I mean they’re fleeing a war zone – it’s urgent.

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