A Ukrainian family has settled in the Lethbridge area after fleeing the ongoing war in eastern Europe with the help of a Canadian registered charity working to eliminate the cost barrier of overseas flights.
Help from Canada Co-founder Michael Garnett says since the conflict between the Ukrainian and Russian forces broke out, he and his wife Rebecca have raised funds for goods needed in the country. However, through their work, Garnett says they found a niche for one need that many had: the access to flights to Canada. The pair talked to different airlines and worked out deals, bringing the ticket price down to roughly $250 a person.
“What we found is there were a whole bunch of people approved to get to Canada, there were a whole bunch of people who had families waiting for them, and the biggest obstacle was that airline ticket, it just cost so much money,” Garnett says. “People [now] come to us; we are the piece that they need, and we are offering them the most expensive part of that trip.”
People coming to them is how Garnett was connected with Kalena and Vladimir, as he received a call from a Lethbridge local named Lisa Bendfeld, who knew of this family that had their visas and were trying to get to Lethbridge. Benfeld reportedly found out about Help from Canada from someone in the Ukraine. Garnett got the family on a flight that arrived in Edmonton on November 17th, where they were picked up and completed their journey to Lethbridge.
Since launching Help from Canada, Garnett says they have brought around 300 people over from Ukraine, and to him, not only is the mission-critical, but it also hits close to home.
“I’m a retired professional hockey player of Ukrainian Heritage, and I spent ten years playing over in Russia, so this is deeply personal to me. There is no better use of my time than doing that full time, trying to fundraise but also booking it all myself.”
He adds that they are racing a clock, with the Federal Government having the March 31st, 2024, visa deadline for those from Ukraine. Garnett says fundraising also plays a vital role, as every $250 they raise can help them bring someone else who is waiting over.