Bruce McLaren Retirement Village group’s knitted Yuri Bears. Photo supplied.

Residents at Bruce McLaren Retirement Village are making handmade bears to send to displaced children in war-torn Ukraine.

They are one of 45 Ryman Healthcare villages who are taking part in a trans-Tasman bear-making mission to make 20,000 knitted teddy bears, joined by team members in the villages and the company’s offices in Christchurch, Auckland and Melbourne.

The idea came about from Ryman’s Victorian sales and community relations manager Debra Richardson who fostered a Ukranian boy named Yuri following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the 1980s.

The project emerged from her discussions with Yuri, who is now based in Ukraine, about how people in Australia and New Zealand could provide support.

Bruce McLaren Retirement Village’s group has so far knitted more than 204 bears with more on the way.

Following the devastating events in Ukraine, thousands of children have been evacuated to other countries, or found themselves displaced or stranded at the Ukranian-Polish border, Ryman Health Care says.

So far, they’ve reached the 5000 mark for bears produced overall.

The public and local communities are encouraged to get involved in the project.

Ryman will provide anyone interested with a simple teddy bear pattern, instructions and creative suggestions to knit a ‘Yuri Bear’. Non-knitters can donate yarn to the cause.

Completed Yuri Bears can be dropped off at the nearest Ryman village.

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