TORONTO – Members of the Plast Ukrainian Scouting Organization in Canada met for the annual meeting via video conference on April 9 with discussions largely focused on how members of the organization can help individuals impacted by the war cope with their emotions.
Many of the members noted that they were stunned by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggressive, vicious and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the launch of the full-scale war on February 24.
Members of the group said they were told that over 1,000 Plast members in Ukraine had volunteered for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, while others signed up for the territorial defense forces and were waiting for their assignments. In addition, many others have volunteered to provide logistical support and deliver humanitarian aid to those who need food or medicine throughout the country.
Ukrainians worldwide continue to be on an emotional roller coaster as they listen to disastrous news one day and then rejoice at the small rays of hope on other days.
To help Plast leaders, members and displaced Ukrainians who are arriving in Canada cope with the range of emotions, organizers of this year’s annual meeting planned a session with a professional guest speaker.
Ivanna Bilak – a Plast member, registered psychotherapist and a mental health professional – gave a presentation on how Plast counsellors should interact with young people in their care and with displaced families that have just fled from Ukrainian war zones.
“Dealing with trauma is complicated,” Ms. Bilak said.
Many different emotions could be present when dealing with people who have left a war zone, and the counsellors need to be prepared to deal with those emotions, or know how to redirect them, she said.
A counsellor needs to provide a safe space, be welcoming and provide rest and nourishment. When talking with a young person, “be brief and reassuring” and “validate their emotions,” Ms. Bilak said.
“We should avoid broad stroke descriptions or generalizations about war. There is nothing to be gained in showing graphic images of the evils and destruction,” she said.
Instead, Plast programming should provide some forms of recreation and escape from the trauma, she said.
There was a general agreement among members of the annual meeting that Plast in Canada needs to prepare its counsellors to address the inevitable influx of displaced families seeking integration into Ukrainian Canadian community organizations.
Those members have already found different ways of helping Ukraine. Some Plast branches, such as the one in Edmonton, have raised $100,000 for humanitarian aid that has been shipped to Ukraine.
Other branches have continued to work with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, the Canada-Ukraine Foundation, the Help Us Help organization, the Canada Humanitarian Fund, and local churches. Some have worked to gather supplies for the Dzherelo Rehabilitation Center in Lviv and others have made financial donations to many other Ukrainian and Canadian organizations eager to support Ukraine’s fight for freedom.
Toward the end of the annual meeting, members voted to elect individuals to Plast Canada’s National Executive Board for 2022-2024. Daria Horbay from Edmonton was reelected to another term as president of Plast Canada’s National Executive Board, Lubko Belej from Toronto was elected vice president, Olena Coba was elected treasurer, Daria Kowalyk was elected corporate secretary and Bohdan Kolos was elected chair of the Audit/Advisory Board.
The members resolved to continue working to aid Ukraine in its ongoing struggle to repel the Russian invaders, establish peace, rebuild and bring humanitarian aid and prosperity to their ancestral homeland.
“Keep focusing on what is being done and what can be done. Mobilize activities to do together and stay positive. Ukraine needs us,” Ms. Bilak said.