Wars. Thousands of tragic compelling stories. A compassionate organization.

Ruslan Kurtveliev. Photo Oli Zubenko.
Ruslan Kurtveliev. Photo Oli Zubenko.

To the southeast of Leaside our neighbours in Thorncliffe/Flemingdon fill the streets, as well as Costco and the mall, with energy and optimism. Many, in their traditional clothes, push toddlers to the parks, go back and forth to the mosques, shop at stores specializing in Middle Eastern and Asian specialties and travel back and forth to ESL lessons, food banks, social groups, and work. This neighbourhood, which has the youngest average age in Toronto (lots of babies), is home to many newcomers – a number of them refugees requiring assistance to settle in Canada. Many come to rely on the The Neighbourhood Organization to help them find their way in a new country.

TNO is an award-winning, nimble agency with connections throughout the neighbourhood. It underpins the struggles of community members by building a firm foundation for their lives, providing housing, employment counselling and language classes.

TNO was there for the Kurtveliev family. Ruslan Kurtveliev and his wife were two of the many desperate Ukrainians fleeing to Canada. When war broke out in February 2022, Ruslan was working in Qatar while his wife remained home in Ukraine. She was terrified that she would never see him again. After being trapped in her home for three months, she was able to flee to the Romanian border where she met up with her husband.

When they arrived in Toronto, they knew no one. They found it challenging to complete reams of paperwork, they had nowhere to live and they lacked a credit history as newcomers. That’s where one of the amazing TNO settlement workers came in to help fill out forms, find them housing and connect them to the Furniture Bank. While looking at the TNO’s website Ruslan noticed a job opportunity as a social media analyst. He applied for the job and was hired by TNO. This is only one small story of involuntary displacement, struggle and second chances.

Ruslan feels safe in Canada but worries about his family and friends back home. He misses the fields of sunflowers. He is also an artist. He uses his talents to spread awareness of the horrors experienced by Ukrainians. His installation, called “Doors” (www.ruslankurt.com) displays doors from homes damaged by war. Ruslan will be forever grateful to TNO.
The TNO fundraiser Flavours of Thorncliffe is returning to our community. After a Covid hiatus this delicious fundraiser will return this year. Stay tuned for more information and plan to attend.

Did you know?

  • TNO serves over 30,000 clients a year.
  • TNO not only supports newcomers but also provides employment, senior programs as well as skills-based training and youth programs.
  • TNO features a hockey program and supplies all the equipment needed by youth.

Gerri Gershon is a retired TDSB Trustee, past president of the Canadian School Board Association, and a TNO board member.

About Gerri Gershon 17 Articles
Gerri Gershon is a retired TDSB Trustee, past president of the Canadian School Board Association, and a TNO board member.