Ukrainian Mothers' Support Group

Ukrainian Mothers' Support Group

by Marina Arnaud

The Russian invasion of Ukraine that began in February has been devastating. The ongoing war has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and Europe's largest refugee crisis since World War II; around 7.4 million Ukrainians have fled the country, and a third of the population is displaced.  

Due to the ban on men leaving the country, the majority of Ukrainians arriving in Metro Vancouver are women and children. That’s why this spring, YWCA Metro Vancouver launched the Ukrainian Mothers’ Support Group that helps displaced Ukrainian mothers who are parenting alone in Canada to build community, learn about resources and form connections. 

Based on a peer-support model and led by a Ukrainian facilitator, this unique program has served more than 50 mothers since June 2022. 

Participants meet online twice a month and in person once a month. The online meetings welcome guest speakers and the group discusses topics such as adjusting to life in Canada, the school system, immigration laws, the banking system, how to avoid fraud and more. The women also receive information on settlement services and employment and training programs. During their in-person meetups, the group usually participates in fun activities such as outdoor picnics or yoga classes. They also receive monthly grocery cards, bus tickets and other resources to help relieve the pressure of resettlement. 

“As survivors of the war, the Ukrainian moms we serve have endured physical, psychological, emotional and financial struggles. Not all of the families were able to leave Ukraine early enough to avoid children seeing what they were not supposed to see – many are dealing with trauma. If a mother has an under-school-age child, she can’t afford daycare, and, therefore, can’t work. Many mothers are parenting on their own for the first time, and it can be extremely difficult to learn a new transit system to get around, help children adapt to a new school and make ends meet,” says Natalia Charif, Program Coordinator. 

Natalia, whose son and relatives are back in Ukraine, sees that despite the challenges, the strength these families demonstrate is remarkable. 

“They take English classes, participate in employment programs or attend college. Many have found jobs and consistently remain loving and engaged mothers to their children. This is a testament to their tenacity and resiliency. It’s important to continue to build their community and offer access to support to help them succeed in the long term,” says Natalia.  

“My move to Canada was not planned, it was an escape from the war. When I saw an ad about this program on social media, I realized I was not alone. Thanks to this group, I met other Ukrainian women, who, just like me, were seeking support. I received a lot of useful information about life in Canada, about organizations that provide help and advice and I was able to sign up for a free English course, for which I am infinitely grateful.” - Julia, program participant. 

The Ukrainian Mothers’ Support Group is funded by YWCA donors. If you would like to donate to this program, please contact Brenda Ulmer at | 604 895 5764. 



This article is part of the 2022 Fall/Winter edition of our Contact Newsletter. 
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