A group of yoga trainees from West Kelowna has learned the power of volunteering and the importance of the little things in life. They managed to raise more than $500 to create hygiene packs for displaced Ukrainians living in the Central Okanagan.
Chelsea Grdina was one of five students working towards their yoga certification at Shift Power Yoga who decided they wanted to give back to the community. So they reached out to the United Way.
"One of the postings we were really drawn to was, I guess there's a need for infant hygiene kits and personal care items in general for displaced Ukrainians who were coming into BC and the surrounding area," says Grdina.
The United Way connected her with The Bravery Foundation, which works with other organizations in the Central Okanagan that support Ukrainians who have fled the war in their country.
Grdina and her friends, with the help of her employer, Carrington Dental Centre, were able to put together about 30 hygiene packs. Some of the bags of personal care items have been given to We Help Ukraine, which operates a free store out of the Ukrainian Catholic Church on Coronation Avenue. Others will be distributed by Kelowna Stands With Ukraine through its free store, which operates out of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on Barlee Road every Tuesday.
Store volunteer Kathleen Fieseler says the baskets will be given out through a draw system to Ukrainian families who visit the store during a special children's clothing drive.
She says there is quite a need for personal care products because they can be quite expensive.
"Those are the things that you use up," notes Fieseler. "Sure, you can come in and get a toaster from us, and that's going to last you. But your shampoo, your soap, your toothpaste, pads, diapers for babies, and all those things that you have to replenish, are absolutely a need."
Making ends meet is especially difficult for families that have been here for several months and have moved out of host homes into their own apartments or rental housing.
"Once they're here for, you know, six months or a year, they're only making $20 an hour at their job, maybe they have multiple children. That's who we're finding are coming back and seeing if anyone has donated laundry soap this week or shampoo. They're coming to us for needs like that," Fieseler explains.
She adds that the demand is also high for irons, blenders, hair dryers, and curling irons—all things that families had to leave behind when they came to Canada.
Grdina is just glad she and her friends could help.
"We didn't even think too much of it. We're just like, we'll raise a bit of money and then we'll just go shopping and donate these things, and that's that. But with how much we were able to do with the five of us and how easy it was, anybody can do this."
If you wish to donate hygiene products, you can find details about the Kelowna Stands With Ukraine and We Help Ukraine free stores on the Bravery Foundation website.