Dr. Christine Gibson lives in a modest-sized inner city home, but the space is soon going to get more crowded.
The Calgary doctor is welcoming three women fleeing Ukraine into her home this week — three women she’s never met in person.
“I don’t have the biggest house ever so it’s going to be growing pains settling everyone here,” Gibson said of the three new roommates.
Gibson met the women over WhatsApp. She said one of them speaks English and “are just the loveliest group of people.”
The trio are coming to Canada with open work permits from the federal government, and Gibson has told them they are welcome to stay in her home indefinitely.
“I’m about to have an extended family and I’m really excited about that, and a little nervous,” she added with a laugh.
“To have the privilege that can accept three more people is really fortunate. I know even though there will be growing pains, I will gain more than I will give.”
Gibson said her guests are related. Two are in their early 20’s and one is 48-years-old. Two of the women are leaving the men in their lives behind in Ukraine.
“Every day they are ensuring the safety of their loved ones, whether it’s their partner or their immediate family they left behind. They are constantly in this mode of fear and apprehension about the future,” she said.
That concerns the trauma therapist and family physician at Calgary’s Mosaic Refugee Clinic.
“We are going to have to be on the lookout for these trauma responses and anticipate that should anything happen to their family that they left behind, something devastating happens to their villages — which is certainly happening in a number of areas — that those trauma responses might show up,” Gibson said.
Gibson has bought her guests their first month’s worth of grocery gift cards and transit tickets, and said the community is helping out too.
“I ended up donating half my clothes because I know they’re coming with very little. Some of my friends who aren’t able to host have offered financial help or donations. A neighbour across the street offered a queen-sized bed,” Gibson said.
Gibson isn’t sure if the regular health care system will be able to accommodate all the mental health needs of the Ukrainians coming here.
“Even the regular services that are free, they can take months to access. If you are in an acute situation, certainly they are available to you, but for a person who is in more of a chronic state it can take many months to get in,” she said.
“I am on a Facebook post for Alberta hosts where people are starting to talk about ‘How are we going to meet their mental health needs?’ We are figuring that out very ad hoc in this beautiful, grassroots way.”
Over ten years ago, Gibson backpacked through a part of Ukraine where her family has roots. She said she feels a strong connection to the Ukrainian people, with a Ukranian maternal grandmother.
“I’ve been writing a book about my grandmother’s stories of her family. She knew the stories of our origins to Canada. It was our great-great grandparents who came here. The stories blew my mind,” Gibson said.
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