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Former Richmond MP returns from humanitarian mission to help Ukrainians

Richmond has many Ukrainian roots: Kenny Chiu

Being informed and watching footage of carnage in Ukraine on the news wasn’t enough for Kenny Chiu. The former Steveston-Richmond East MP decided to embark on a seven-week journey to help out. Chiu recently returned from volunteering with Operation Mobilization (OM), a Christian missionary and humanitarian organization that aims to get aid to people in crisis.

Initially, the group was active along the border between Ukraine and Poland but shifted its base of operations to Poland’s capital, Warsaw, in September.

"I decided rather than just getting information from YouTube or the newspaper, perhaps there was something I can do," Chui said.

Chiu was stationed at Ptak Warsaw Expo, an expo centre converted into an emergency shelter. Six days a week, his tasks consisted of distributing food and other daily life provisions to those in need, and helping the Polish government relocate refugees out of the shelter and into temporary apartments and other settlements. Chiu and other OM volunteers also provided English lessons and organized Ukrainian cultural activities to make the refugees feel more at home. One of Chiu's biggest challenges was overcoming the language barrier. (Although, thank goodness for Google translate.) 

But even though communicating could be difficult, the message he was able to share had to do with the connection between Ukraine and Richmond.

"I was hoping to express the linkage between Richmond and Ukraine,” Chiu said, "Richmond is so rich in culture. Particularly the area that I currently live in, it has so many Ukrainian roots. I wanted to bring that sense of connection to any Ukrainian I encounter."

Chiu said the work at the emergency centre was strenuous but extremely rewarding. Occasionally, he had to bring in his parental skill as well. "There are many young boys who haven't seen a male role model since the start of the war," Chiu said

While the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues, Chiu encourages other Canadian to do what they can. "We are a country that would not see others suffer without helping, without contributing any humanitarian effort. It is in our national DNA," Chiu said.