Step-By-Step in Ukraine: A truly memorable visit for Op UNIFIER Personnel

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By Captain Stéphanie Paquette, Joint Task Force – Ukraine

Ten years ago, in collaboration with L’Arche Jean Vanier de Gatineau in Quebec, I harnessed my organizational skills and passion for arts and crafts to organizing workshops for people with developmental disabilities. Little did I know that one day, I would find myself doing something similar in faraway Ukraine through my work in the Canadian Army.

I’m an Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Officer currently deployed on Operation UNIFIER, Canada’s mission to provide training support to the Security Forces of Ukraine. On May 7th, 2019, through the Task Force Chaplain’s outreach program to support local Ukrainian charities, I visited Step-by-Step (Крок за Кроком), a day center for young people with developmental disabilities in Lviv, Ukraine. This organization provides developmentally disabled teenagers and young adults with arts and crafts workshops and small jobs training sessions. We joined young people at the center in painting and other activities.

While we were having a great time with our new friends, one of the founders explained to us how she was inspired by former Royal Canadian Naval Officer Jean Vanier. Vanier, who coincidentally had passed away just a few hours ago in Paris, is renowned worldwide for his humanitarianism and for championing the cause of people with disabilities.

He founded two international organizations for people with developmental disabilities, L’Arche, and Faith and Light. Unwittingly, we were paying tribute to him in a most meaningful and memorable way by sharing great moments with people who were genuinely happy to spend time with us. Indeed, one of the parents remarked that her daughter was sure to treasure this event for a long time.

Arte et Marte! (“By Fighting and by Skill!”). So goes the motto of the Corps of Royal Canadian Electrical

and Mechanical Engineers. However, at the heart of our trade is a commitment to humanity.

It is my skill and commitment that motivated me to join the Canadian Armed Forces. And I’m happy to say that this skill and commitment were fulfilled through what turned out to be a most rewarding visit.  Thank you Padre Alain Brosseau for facilitating that truly memorable and inspiring visit and I am looking forward to the next opportunity to connect with other local organizations through their selfless service toward the local community.

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