The Maple Leaf.
While the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members deployed on Operation Unifier have the primary task of providing military training, mentoring and capacity building for the Ukrainian Armed Forces, they have also been committed to reaching out to Ukrainian communities through humanitarian projects.
“With the support of the Chain of Command, we have been assisting non-profit local organizations by means of voluntarily contributions, fundraising events, and by CAF members’ voluntary participation in day programs designed for disadvantaged children and young adults with mental disabilities,” said Captain Humberto Lopes, Chaplain of Joint Task Force-Ukraine. He has led this project during the operation.
One of the new humanitarian initiatives of Operation Unifier was to offer support for Home for Children #1. This orphanage in Lviv houses 55 young children full-time, ranging from 2 to 6 years of age. After contacting the Home for Children director, it became clear that winter boots were one of the most pressing needs for the kids. That knowledge ignited the idea and initiative of Operation Warm Feet.
Op Warm Feet’s goal was to provide winter boots for every child at Home for Children #1; boots are an essential clothing item for harsh Ukrainian winters. The idea was well received by Op Unifier members, who contributed generously to the initiative.
“The contributions and fundraising initiatives were so successful that we surpassed our monetary expectations, and therefore we were also able to offer our assistance to another orphanage in Kamianets-Podilskyi looking for help to provide gloves and winter hats for twenty-two children,” said Captain Lopes.
The success of Op Warm Feet clearly demonstrated the generosity and support of Canadian soldiers to Ukrainian society. Each visit at the orphanage enriched their experience in Ukraine as they embraced a simple but significant cause in a very tangible way. They provided a caring human presence and the resources to purchase winter boots for the children.
Perhaps the best part of Op Warm Feet was the thank you: the children hugged the troops and sang songs. Indeed this was the best part of the day, and the best gifts Op Unifier members could have received.