Non-profit group gives life lessons to young Ukrainian refugees through sailing

After fleeing war, more than 20 young Ukrainian refugees sail across Lake Ontario to develop their knowledge, skills and sense of social belonging.

It’s part of a program created by the nonprofit group Broad Reach Canada, whose mission is to engage underserved youth through sailing. It fosters the development of newcomers, vulnerable youth and oppressed minorities by teaching them to sail. Broad Reach is organizing the program in conjunction with Sail Canada.

On Sunday in Toronto, the young people gathered at the National Yacht Club, where they set sail for two hours on three sailboats.

“Navigation is a microcosm of life and mundane challenges and problems,” said Marguerite Pyron, CEO of Broad Reach.

“You can’t run away from them, you’re in the lake, with nowhere to go, you have to learn how to resolve conflicts, how to work as team members,” he added.

Sail Canada director John O’Dwyer said the water is a “great place to grow.” He said seeing young Ukrainians sail on Lake Ontario for the first time is “life changing for them.”

Yurii Siremko, 18, left, and Kiril Reveruk, 15, right, fled Kyiv when the invasion of Ukraine began. They participated in the Broad Reach Canada sailing program on Sunday. (CBC)

For 18-year-old Yurii Siremko, he’s happy to be in the water, but it’s a bittersweet moment.

“But I’m also scared for my friends, my family, so it’s a contrast,” she said.

Siremko fled his hometown of Kyiv shortly after Ukraine’s invasion. He is here in Canada alone, with friends and family back home. Sailing gives him some relief from what he has escaped, he said.

“It’s an extremely quick way to become an adult, I can tell,” he said.

The Broad Reach program aims to provide more than 200 young Ukrainians with the opportunity to sail during the summer.

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