Cindy Fairs’ compassionate heart has served her in both her professional and volunteer roles for many years in the Central Okanagan. Now as the Housing Coordinator for Kelowna Stands with Ukraine (KSWU), she is filled with a passion for meeting the needs of individuals and families fleeing war, pain and hardship. Her primary role is helping to find temporary accommodations for displaced Ukrainians when they first arrive in the Central Okanagan.
“When the war broke out in Ukraine, I was personally touched by the tragedy of what was taking place,” explains Cindy, who is not Ukrainian, but whose children are of Ukrainian descent. “However, I strongly contend, that you do not have to be Ukrainian to be compelled to help. All you need, is to have a compassionate heart.”
“I first got involved by attending a candlelight vigil in March of 2022 to honor and remember the Ukrainians affected by the war. At that time, I did not know how I might fit in or what I would do but I knew that if I went, I would figure out the rest,” adds Cindy. At the event, people were invited to attend a volunteer meeting the following week, which she attended. “Soon thereafter, I was asked to join the board, and as such, got to work in developing the structure of the organization and the various programs associated with it. Without the help of many hands and other key volunteers, these programs would not have come to fruition or developed to the point they are at today.”
Housing was and continues to be a critical need and Cindy is encouraging the community to step forward to help.
“We have already placed about 200 families which is the equivalent of 800 people,” states Cindy. “The need for hosts is essential as more people are arriving! Many of our hosts have hosted different families on an ongoing basis but we still need more.”
Cindy herself has opened her home, and she has found it to be incredibly rewarding. “I have had many Ukrainians stay with me over the last year, but Nadiia, a young Ukrainian woman, has been staying with me since last summer. She has been a wonderful guest and became involved as a volunteer to support me with the housing program almost from the beginning.”
Families are matched based on information collected from both the Ukrainians and the hosts. “We vet homes with our Housing Volunteers doing a home-visit with the host family, checking out the homes and space available and answering questions. The hosts are also required to go through a screening process, including completing a criminal record check, but it is a very simple process and fairly quick and painless. Once this has been completed, we connect the Ukrainians with the hosts so that they can start a dialogue and build a relationship before the Ukrainians arrive in Canada.”
“We need more hosts, that is what we need most,” states Cindy emphatically. “Hosts may provide space for one month to six months, and in some cases even longer. We ask that hosts provide a safe home environment, meals only for the first few days, and support to take them around to get their documents completed. We support hosts and the Ukrainians with mentorship and guidance so they are not left totally on their own.”
Cindy points out that language barriers are easily overcome and most hosts benefit from the opportunity. “The joy one receives from doing this is immeasurable.”
If you are interested in helping as a host contact Cindy at firstname.lastname@example.org, If you prefer to help by volunteering in other ways, like helping with fundraisers, organizing KSWU initiatives, or being a mentor to help people settle, contact KSWU at 236-471-9922.
Dorothee Birker is the communications and development coordinator for KCR Community Resources. If you are interested in sharing your volunteer or organizational news, please contact Dorothee at email@example.com.