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Ukrainian couple gets support, and wheels, in Guelph

Local Facebook group is connecting hosts in Guelph with Ukrainian people escaping the war
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Vlad Belenov and Mary Salnikova with their new matching bikes

Community support has helped a Ukrainian couple get a fresh start in Guelph after arriving in Canada a month ago.

“Samantha messaged us saying she could host us. We were very happy,” said Vlad Belenov, 25, who arrived in Canada with his partner Mary Salnikova, 27, from Kyiv.

Guelph's Samantha McCleave hosted the Ukrainian couple who have found jobs in Vaughn at an interior design studio.

He said she was able to help them communicate with the government so they could get what they needed to settle in Canada.

Both Belenov and Salnikova’s families are still in Ukraine. 

McCleave started the Facebook group Hosts & Supporters of Ukrainians Guelph to get support from the community and find hosts for Ukrainians coming to Canada.

“The real challenge right now is there are just not enough hosts for the number of families that are arriving,” said McCleave.

She reached out to MP Lloyd Longfield to ask questions about how else the government can help Ukrainians new to Canada since there doesn't seem to be any emergency housing.

She said she helped the couple get SIN cards, OHIP cards, open bank accounts, write their resumes and apply for jobs.

“Then when they do set out on their own, even if they’ve secured jobs, which they have, coming up with first and last month’s rent and all the things you need to furnish an apartment is a lot.”

McCleave said they have been relying on donations to help get the couple started.

The couple needed a pair of bikes to get them to and from work, so Samantha set out to see if there were people who could donate some bikes.

Mike Darmon is president of the Guelph Coalition of Active Transportation, which has a Bikes for Community Connections program that gives bikes to newcomers to Canada.

Darmon didn’t have bikes ready to be donated so he reached out to Mike Foley, school board trustee for the Upper Grand District School Board, who runs a bike donation program to help give bikes to marginalized communities.

Foley was able to find a matching pair of his and hers bikes from an old retired couple who had them in their basement and rode the bikes a handful of times.

The couple received the bikes on Friday and secured them on McCleave's car bike rack. They leave Guelph on Saturday to start a new chapter in Vaughn.