CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — As the conflict in Ukraine continues, a new space is opening up in Chesterfield County to assist incoming refugees, as well as immigrants who have already resettled in the community.
On Saturday, the Manchester Family YMCA on Hull Street Road will be celebrating the completion of the new Anderson Welcome Center, as well as a $5 million renovation.
“We are the first one in the YMCA of Greater Richmond,” Senior Vice President of Community Impact Lisa Ramirez said. “We really want to put an emphasis on newcomers to our community, new immigrants. But we also don’t want to forget those that have been in our country for quite a while, but, perhaps, are not born in our country, or even for folks that have been here for a while that say, ‘I just need some help and I don’t know where to go.'”
The YMCA of Greater Richmond broke ground to renovate and upgrade the Manchester Family YMCA in Feb. 2020. The expansion now offers more childcare space, a brighter pool area with more windows, and additional conference and office areas where representatives from various Chesterfield County departments can assist community members.
“While the resettlement groups do a great job at resettling folks, our role then comes into play helping newcomers or even those, again, that have been in our community for a long time that may not speak English,” Ramirez said. “How do you find the services? How do we connect you, and how do we help you move along through the process to be able to obtain the services that are necessary so that you’ll be thriving in our community?”
A spokesperson for Chesterfield County told 8News that local resettlement agencies are expecting another 500 incoming refugee families to the area from various countries by the end of FY 2023. But the challenge is not knowing exactly what the need will be, or how many refugees are already here.
“I think it will be fairly busy just because between the incoming refugees that we already had from Afghanistan and now with what’s going on on the world stage with Ukraine, I think our meetings have really been built around all of us being able to mobilize quickly when needed,” Citizen Information and Resources Multicultural Community Engagement Coordinator Dalila Medrano said. “We’re able to all sort of strategize and align our efforts around welcoming refugees and immigrants in our area.”
Although a spokesperson for the locality said that Chesterfield County did not pay for the renovation at the Manchester YMCA, the local government will be providing services and connecting individuals to those who need them. About half of the $5 million was funded through donations.
“A lot of those services are at no cost whatsoever because we’re working together,” Ramirez said.
Medrano noted that the Welcome Center will be a place to convene resources from the Department of Social Services, mental health professionals and Citizen Information and Resources.
It’s these types of services that Ukrainian refugee Tetyana “Tanya” Goryaystova said could make the transition to American life more sustainable.
“I don’t know yet about my future plan because, thank [to Vladimir] Putin, I don’t know what will be tomorrow,” Goryaystova said. “But nobody knows.”
8News first spoke with Goryaystova and her daughter, 17-year-old Sofiia “Sonya” Bragnia back in March, just days after they escaped from Kharkiv, where they spent five days sheltering in an underground cellar as bombs exploded overhead.
Since then, Goryaystova said that she and her family have had to separate, her husband returning to Warsaw, Poland, to be closer to their parents, who remain in Europe amid the conflict. She also said the Bragnia has expressed interest in attending a university in the U.S. to study psychology, and has filed for Temporary Protected Status.
“My daughter [will] now stay in the U.S.A.,” Goryaystova said. “The most difficult [thing] is to be here without [the] possibility to have [a] job, to have work, and without [the] possibility to study.”
That’s why Goryaystova said she would like to also file for Temporary Protected Status, but that it’s a costly measure that she cannot currently afford.
“I wish [to] stay here now, yes, but I know it’s very difficult because my parents [are] in Kharkiv now,” she said. “I’m [going to] stay here until September now, and then, I don’t know.”
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