Brian and Sharon Holowaychuks originally purchased 'The Grouse Nest' nature resort to turn it into an events center. Now, they are pivoting to support Ukrainian refugees in need.
To support refugees fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine, one couple has decided to transform their huge resort property into a "safe haven." Like many Canadians, Brian and Sharon Holowaychuks are opening their doors to help Ukrainian refugees entering the country. They are hoping to give several families a place to call home. As owners and operators of The Grouse Nest, a stunning 81-acre nature resort property located in British Columbia, the couple plans to house 100 refugees once their renovations are complete. They already have 19 people booked into their rooms, Global News Canada reports.
We’re renovating a former resort property on Vancouver Island to help as many Ukrainian refugees as possible as they arrive in Canada. Please consider donating or volunteering if you’d like to contribute. #HelpUkraine #Ukraine pic.twitter.com/7TbQJ8AmJ8— Ukrainian Safe Haven 🇺🇦 🇨🇦 (@UkraineHaven) March 14, 2022
"My personal goal is 100 people," Brian shared in an interview with the news outlet. "We have got 19 people booked to be coming in about two to three weeks. We are in a position, in a place, in a time where we could help make a bit of a difference. And I thought, you know, it is time to stand up and be counted." The Holowaychuks have decided to call their renovated property the "Ukrainian Safe Haven." They made the choice to pivot their property from a nature resort to a refugee home when Russia first invaded Ukraine on February 24.
As Brian’s grandparents migrated from Ukraine to Canada, this is an issue close to the couple's hearts. The Ukrainian Safe Haven is nestled in a beautiful pine forest and surrounded by a crystal clear lake. Originally, they were going to convert it into an art gallery and events center. But to house as many people as possible, the Holowaychuks have reversed some of their then-ongoing work. To complete the renovations on time, the couple called on local volunteers to help out. The wider community is now involved in the transformation project. Some contractors in the area volunteered their time and energy as well. In one Facebook post, the couple wrote, "Working on the small kitchen, the flooring is looking great [because of] another great volunteer. It's great to have such seasoned pros helping. And the custom scaffolding build is going up so we can fix a broken window. It's a ton of work when the access is so difficult."
A huge thanks to the volunteers helping to prepare the property for Ukrainian refugees. We’re looking to start accepting refugees in the next week or two and give them a safe place to stay. #yyj pic.twitter.com/s4lgN7H9Nb— Ukrainian Safe Haven 🇺🇦 🇨🇦 (@UkraineHaven) March 31, 2022
Despite the amount of work required in a short time span, people in the local community have come together to do as much as they can. For instance, Stewart Johnston, a Victoria-based lawyer, decided he wanted to help out by registering the project as a nonprofit at no cost. He said, "This is an extremely important cause and I’m really impressed with what they are doing to help. I wanted to help out." In addition to this, the couple is now leasing the property for $1 a year to a new organization that a local law firm, McConnan Bion O’Connor & Peterson, helped form into a 501(c)3 nonprofit free of charge. Even with all the support they have received from their community, the Holowaychuks are still looking for volunteers and donations to complete their renovations. If you would like to help the cause, you can do so by checking out their website here. Ukrainian refugees who live at the Safe Haven will be provided with food, education, transportation and assistance with the settlement process to help get families back on their feet. They are invited to stay as long as they like.