After fleeing war, more than 20 Ukrainian refugee youth are sailing on Lake Ontario to build their knowledge, skills, and sense of social belonging.
It’s part of a program created by non-profit group Broad Reach Canada, whose mission is to engage under-served youth through sailing. It encourages development for newcomers, vulnerable youth, and oppressed minorities through teaching them how to sail. Broad Reach is organizing the program in conjunction with Sail Canada.
In Toronto on Sunday, the youth gathered at the National Yacht Club where they took to the water for two hours on three sailboats.
“Sailing is a microcosm of worldly and life challenges and issues,” said Marguerite Pyron, CEO of Broad Reach.
“You can’t run away from them, you’re out there on the lake, nowhere to go, you have to learn, how to solve conflict, how to work as team members,” she added.
Sail Canada director John O’Dwyer said the water is a “great place to grow up.” He said seeing Ukrainian youth sail on Lake Ontario for the first time is “life changing for them.”
For 18-year-old Yurii Siremko, he’s happy to be on the water but it’s a bittersweet moment.
“But also I feel scary about my friends, my family, so it’s a contrast,” he said.
Siremko fled his hometown of Kyiv shortly after the invasion of Ukraine. He’s here in Canada alone, with friends and family back home. Sailing gives him some relief from what he’s escaped, he said.
“It’s an extremely fast way to become an adult, I can say,” he said.
Broad Reach’s program is aiming to give more than 200 Ukrainian youth a chance to sail throughout the summer.