Some members of the Sunflower Network with the Ukrainian refugee children who have settled in Estevan.

ESTEVAN – Today, Jan. 7, is what in Saskatchewan is commonly called “Ukrainian Christmas.” Really, it’s the celebration of Christmas based on the Julian calendar, followed by the Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox Churches.

The big event is Christmas Eve, on Jan. 6, with its 12 traditional meatless dishes. But this year, due to the war in Ukraine which started last February, there are a lot more Ukrainians who have celebrated their first Christmas here, in Canada.

The Sunflower Network is a group of volunteers across Saskatchewan (and a few in elsewhere in Canada) who came together to help Ukrainian refuges find homes here. Steve Halabura, a geologist who is CEO of junior potash miner Buffalo Potash, got the ball rolling with a column that appeared in Pipeline Online where he pledged to help one family come and settle here, and called on others to do the same. That led to a group of around 20 who have been meeting online once a week, coordinating efforts. Most of those volunteers are business owners, but some are involved with Southeast Newcomer Services.

Brian Crossman, left, handing out presents to Ukrainian children.

A large portion of those efforts became concentrated in southeast Saskatchewan, specifically in Estevan, as well as Saskatoon, with the Saskatoon Open Door Society. And on Dec. 19, they were able to put together a Christmas party at the Western Star Inn & Suites in Estevan. A wedding followed the next day.

There’s also been a few babies born, here on Canadian soil.

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Brian and Valorie Crossman have been leading efforts most recently in Estevan, doing everything from picking up mattress to arranging and furnishing apartments and picking up the newly landed refugees from the Regina airport. Similar work has been done by Aleksandra Szlapapacka, Corey Casemore, Josh Biggs, Twyla Ferron, Debbie Hagel and Darcy McCormick (in Weyburn) and others over the past year.

Brian Crossman said on Jan. 6, “We’ve touched the lives of 22 families, either a little bit or a lot, depending on how it worked out. Whether it was something as simple as buying a few things, or something like we’ve furnish their house, picked them up the airport and had food in the house, brought them here and helped them find jobs.

“So it’s varying stages of help they’ve been given. It just depends. And that that Christmas party, we had when we had a lot of families there – lots of kids – which was wonderful. And we gave a presents and fed them pizza.”

Valorie Crossman, left, has been doing lots of running around, helping refugees.

And if that wasn’t enough, the Crossmans noted during the party that a similar number of people are expected to come to Estevan in the coming months. While the group has helped some with flights, in more recent months, provincial government has been bringing in flights, easing that burden. Others have paid their own way to get here.

“We’ve got a family coming on the 17th. They are flying themselves, as far as I know they can do it,” Brian said.

 

“It a mom, dad, 22 and 21 year-olds, pretty much adults, and a 12 year old,” he said. One’s a computer programmer, another is a drone specialist, he noted.

Others have had a wide range of skills, from truck drivers and welders, to medical specialists and even a horticulturalist.

While the group does have some new volunteers, including from some of the newcomers, themselves, they could absolutely use more. In some cases it could be picking up people from the airport. But more mundane tasks like providing refugees with rides to medical appointments or even to work in this cold winter weather are all needed.

And the refugees have been eager to work, and establish themselves here. Several now work in the oilpatch, for instance. The aforementioned Western Star has hired several.

Similar efforts have been going on in Saskatoon and

Halabura said on Jan. 7, “Sunflower Network is shifting from bringing people here to helping them here. We provided 21 Christmas hampers in Saskatoon.”

“The need remains. Aid agencies are doing what they can, but there’s always challenges.”

In Saskatoon, the group has had the assistance of the Open Door Society and Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

Funding for Sunflower Network’s efforts have come largely from donations, fundraising, and volunteers’ own pockets. Donations can be made through the group’s website, https://www.sunflowernetwork.ca/ . There’s a donation link on there, which in done through the Rosetown Community Church in cooperation with the Rheaume Family Foundation. Taxable receipts are issued at the end of the year.

Halabura said, “The war isn’t over, and probably won’t be over in the near term. I think there will be more refugees, more people fleeing the situation.”

 

  • 0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
    0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
  • 0060 Arizona Lithium Lease building
    0060 Arizona Lithium Lease building
  • 0059 Southeast College Heavy Equipment Operator
    0059 Southeast College Heavy Equipment Operator
  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0015 Latus Viro
    0015 Latus Viro
  • 0052 Predator Inspections
    0052 Predator Inspections
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 9001
  • 0002