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New home built to house refugees almost ready for Ukrainian families

Jennifer Baggio is an ambassador of the Kyiv Home Project, a program which helps Ukrainian families re-settle in Cottam, Ont. Baggio said the house that will host two families will be ready to be occupied on March 1. (TJ Dhir/CBC - image credit)
Jennifer Baggio is an ambassador of the Kyiv Home Project, a program which helps Ukrainian families re-settle in Cottam, Ont. Baggio said the house that will host two families will be ready to be occupied on March 1. (TJ Dhir/CBC - image credit)

A house in Cottam, Ont., will soon be able to host two families fleeing the war in Ukraine.

As part of the Kyiv Home Project, one of the project's ambassadors hopes it will be completed and the first family from Ukraine will move in on March 1.

"We're in talks with a four-person family in Ukraine right now," said Jennifer Baggio, the project's spokesperson. "They have a son with medical needs, so we're making sure that we can be able to provide that support once they get here."

Baggio said her father, Gary Taveirne, was the inspiration behind the project. Baggio said that he saw Ukrainian women and children fleeing with suitcases in their hands and nowhere to go.

"He saw that in his own children," Baggio said. "He would never want us to go through something like that."

The house contains two units on two floors, one for each family. The upper unit has three bedrooms, with the unit in the basement having two bedrooms. Baggio said a typical home like this would go for a million dollars, but they are hoping to build it for only a quarter of that.

"We don't know what it's costing us because of how much the community and different partners that we're working with have been able to donate their time and their supplies," Baggio said. "The support is pretty overwhelming."

One of those partners is the Cottam United Church. Rev. Kim Gilliland said the church is looking for volunteers to help out the future arrivals.

"We need drivers, we need friendly visitors, we need people to help them find what they need, get them established in schools, lots of things like that," he said.

TJ Dhir/CBC
TJ Dhir/CBC

Gilliland said the house is intended to be a transitional residence for refugees.

"Transitional housing means that they come here, we set them up, get them established and get them to be independent so they can find jobs, find doctors, whatever they need," he said. "We help them do all those sorts of things, but then they become independent."

Gilliland said that once families are self-sufficient, they will move out into their own residence and another family will take their place in the house.

"It's a rotating process; trying to help as many families as we can," he said.

TJ Dhir/CBC
TJ Dhir/CBC

Gilliland said that it feels good to be part of a project that helps out others.

"The most amazing thing is how it's brought together people who previously didn't know each other," he said. "People come up to me and say, 'I heard about this and I want to help to be part of it. What can we do?' The whole community is coming together over this."

The Town of Kingsville helped the project get started. A motion was unanimously passed on June 13 to issue a building permit and waive about $19,600 of development charges and fees.

Another supporter of the project is Essex MP Chris Lewis. Baggio said it is wonderful to have his support.

"He's brought our project to many political parties," she said. "He went to the House of Commons and he gave a one-minute speech about the project. He was able to bring that to light for anybody that doesn't live in this local area."