TELUS Friendly Future Foundation
Two volunteers from Disaster Aid International setting up emergency tents in Ukraine.

Social services

How Canadians are supporting Ukrainians in need

Jul 28, 2022

(Above) Disaster Aid Canada, a local non-profit, worked with Disaster Aid International to send emergency tents (pictured) and 300 essential Sawyer water purification systems to Ukraine following a grant from TELUS Friendly Future Foundation.

When Russian forces invaded Ukraine this February, many Canadians knew immediately they wanted to do something to help. C. Anne McIntyre swung into action, creating a space for concerned Victorians to gather and show their support for residents of Ukraine. 

As founder and executive director of Victoria’s Soap for Hope Canada, McIntyre creates hygiene kits, which include soaps, shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste, often made from repurposed hotel room amenities, and distributes them free of charge, usually to vulnerable Canadians or those impacted by local disasters. And while soap and shampoo may be less essential than food and water, days and weeks without washing can have huge physical and psychological effects on already traumatized people, she says. 

(Above) Eager to help, Soap for Hope Canada’s supporters in Victoria packed two shipping crates filled with soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, baby blankets, toys and hand-written messages of support – all destined for Ukrainian refugees.

McIntyre soon started asking for in-kind donations and inviting Soap for Hope Canada’s supporters to its warehouse to pack boxes – not just with hygiene items, but also cards, personal notes of encouragement and even hand-knitted baby blankets.  

“Every day our volunteers and donors said, ‘Thank you for doing something. We really wanted to help but didn’t know what to do,’” she says of the response. “We opened our warehouse for three weeks for people to come and help or donate items. It was a beautiful community moment just allowing people to come and cry and have conversations about what is going on in Ukraine."

Getting volunteers to put kits together is one thing. Getting two containers of humanitarian aid overseas to displaced Ukrainians, which is what Soap for Hope Canada did this spring, is another. 

Fortunately, the non-profit has long held a close relationship with the TELUS Vancouver Island Community Board, which recommended the charity to receive a grant from TELUS Friendly Future Foundation, an independent registered charity that supports youth-focused Canadian organizations that offer health, education or technology programs. 

Just as McIntyre wanted to do something to help, so, too, did the team at the Foundation. The result? The Foundation gave Soap for Hope Canada $20,000 to get its containers to Europe.

“TELUS Friendly Future Foundation’s mission is to help connect youth to a world of opportunities”, says Shanan Spencer-Brown, the Foundation’s executive director. “During a humanitarian crisis, we are also committed to helping children, youth and families worldwide by assisting with the provision of much-needed health care, emergency supplies and emotional support. 

“The work Soap for Hope Canada is doing to ensure Ukrainians receive important personal care items is remarkable. We are grateful to be a part of this critical, community-wide response that is offering dignity to people facing incredible hardship.”

WATER AND SHELTER

Supporting the compassionate efforts of Soap for Hope Canada is one example of TELUS’ efforts to support residents of Ukraine, as well as the millions who have been forced to flee the country since the conflict began. 

To date, the tech company has donated nearly $4 million in humanitarian relief through the TELUS Friendly Future Foundation, Canadian and international TELUS Community Boards and donations from TELUS team members across the country. Of this figure, the Foundation, along with the TELUS Community Boards in Canada, has granted $2.2 million to more than 30 charities assisting Ukrainians in need, including Aman Lara, which helped to evacuate Ukrainian children battling cancer to be treated in Canada, and Hope Worldwide Canada which is providing mental health support for Ukrainian children and their families experiencing the trauma of war. 

Individually, TELUS team members in Canada have donated $175,000 – a sum matched by TELUS for a total of $350,000 – and contributed food, blankets, sleeping bags, first aid kits and other essential items. Internationally, TELUS team members in Bulgaria, Germany, Finland, France, Ireland, Poland and Romania have contributed to organizations assisting refugees, and so far have donated a further $178,000 through TELUS International Community Boards, local fundraising and in-kind support. 

TELUS is also helping Ukrainian refugees arriving in Canada through resettlement agencies and charities, and providing thousands of free SIM cards and prepaid service. Additionally, TELUS has donated £125,000 as part of its participation in a consortium of organizations sponsoring Ukrainians arriving in the United Kingdom. 

A COMMUNITY EFFORT

Closer to home, the Foundation is working with local organizations to allow Victorians and Vancouver Islanders to get more deeply involved in Ukrainian relief efforts. Disaster Aid Canada, a small organization based out of Ladysmith, is among those to receive support in addition to Soap for Hope Canada. With a $10,000 Foundation grant, the organization worked with Disaster Aid International to send emergency tents and 300 essential Sawyer water purification systems to Ukraine.

Frank Elsom, President of Disaster Aid Canada, says his mandate is to meet a population’s most pressing needs, never sending anything that isn’t directly asked for or doesn’t have a designated recipient waiting for it. Emergency workers on the ground sent the message that water and shelter were top priorities. Disaster Aid Canada sent the water filters directly to a part of Poland adjacent to the Ukrainian border where they are being distributed by the Rotary Club.

“These are very portable water-filtration systems that remove more than 99 per cent of anything that is in the water. You can basically take water out of a mud puddle and clean water will pour out the bottom of the filter,” Elsom explains. “Water is the number-one request from all the relief agencies right now.” 

Emergency tents have also arrived in Ukraine, with some providing overflow shelter at damaged, but still operating hospitals along the eastern battlefront. Others will be used as a home for up to eight people.

“It’s a community effort,” McIntyre says of the importance of humanitarian outreach in times of crisis. “Different people come to the table to offer different things. If it were not for these kinds of grants we couldn’t do our work. We couldn’t provide the things to the people who need it the most.”

(Above) “It’s a community effort,” says C. Anne McIntyre (pictured, left), founder and executive director of Soap for Hope Canada.

To learn more about Soap for Hope Canada and how you can be involved, contact the organization at soapforhopecanada.ca. You can reach Disaster Aid Canada at disasteraid.ca, and to help connect youth to a world of opportunities, please visit TELUS Friendly Future Foundation at friendlyfuture.com.

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