Langford Mayor Stew Young is travelling to Ukraine to observe humanitarian efforts and to build relationships in the hopes of establishing a sister city with a community in the region.
Young will be travelling with Bob Beckett, vice-chair of SD62, Shawn Carby, a volunteer with GlobalMedic, an organization working on relief efforts in the region, and a videographer to document the trip.
The time and location of the trip isn’t being released for security reasons. Beckett said he and Young have taken similar journeys in the past to New York after 9/11 and to Haiti after the earthquake in 2010.
“I’m speaking from experience, it’s really important to shake the hand of your counterpart, it’s important to meet the people, it’s important for them to see that you’re there in their neighborhood, that you are taking the effort to go there to say, ‘We stand behind you,’” said Beckett.
Beckett – who was formerly Langford’s fire chief – said his past experiences and partnering with GlobalMedic meant he isn’t concerned about safety risks while in the country.
“Chief (Chris) Aubrey, myself, Shawn: all of our life, all of our career, we’ve trained to mitigate risks. We’ve had dangerous jobs. But we don’t do something blindly. And we rely on experts. We rely on our training… Again, that was one of the reasons for partnering with GlobalMedic. They’re on the ground. They’ve been doing this for years, they’re not going to put their volunteers at undue risk.”
The organization is also receiving funds from the city’s Langford Supports Ukraine money-raising campaign, which raised over $500,000 in total, including a $150,000 grant from GlobalMedic. Young said the total fundraising figure could climb to above a million.
“We’re not talking about making an announcement today, this is for the future, to help those people in Ukraine to make sure that they can get through this,” said Young.
The money will go towards feeding people who have been displaced within Ukraine, as well as needed equipment.
Sooke School District also offered support, and Beckett said they are planning to connect with local school districts in Ukraine to see what support is needed.