Sometimes conflicts that are far away from us get put aside, but not for eight Oyster River Middle School students. In the midst of the Russia-Ukraine war, students, scared and sad about the damage to Ukraine and impacts on innocent Ukrainian people, decided to make a positive impact through fundraising, which will be wrapped up May 16th.
Charlotte VanCamp, Bear Elliot, Jackson Samuel* Zoe Adams, Jesse Heaton, Siena Pelaggi, Autumn Pelaggi and Ben Phillips, all in 5th grade and 6th grade, are passionate about making an impact during a time they consider unfair for many Ukrainian families. They came to Kristin Forselius, who works at the Community Church in Durham, New Hampshire. She decided to meet with these groups of students to help keep them informed about this topic and discuss how to make an impact. After meeting and discussing, Forselius and the students decided to raise money for the Humanitarian Aid Organization for Children, which focuses on raising funds for homeless kids, some of whom may have been separated from their parents.
According to Global Conflict Tracker posted on May 12th, since February 24, 2022 about three thousand civilians have died, nearly seven million people have been displaced, and five million Ukrainians have had to flee to neighboring countries due to the conflict in Ukraine.
Samuel said there are just so many kind and hardworking families that one day had a surprise invasion that was unfair and devastating to them. He spoke about kids who, up until the invasion, were living similar to him: “Their homes are being blown up and their parents are leaving [the country or area]. All their dads are leaving and going to war. They’re forced to flee from their homes, and now they’re basically homeless.”
VanCamp said that she just can’t imagine what it’s like in the shoes of a kid her age in Ukraine right now. That is why she wanted to make an impact. She said, “I did this to help the kids in Ukraine because they don’t deserve any of this and most of them are really confused and wondering what’s happening right now. They didn’t do anything wrong. I just think they should have people support them and donate money to them.”
The students came to Forselius with knowledge about the war from both the news and through conversations with their parents. Seeing that this kind of conflict can happen, especially in the modern day world, was surprising and scary to these students. Although the United States government and other countries have been trying to help with this conflict through sanctions, weaponry, and supplies, this group of students believes that it isn’t enough and there should also be some help from some smaller communities.
Through discussing more about the details of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and looking at Ukrainian needs with Forselius, the students decided to raise money for Humanitarian Aid for Children, a nonprofit organization that gives 85% of every dollar raised to help children in war zones. One of their fundraisers is specifically for the conflict in Ukraine. They chose this fundraiser because they felt especially bad for the children their age having to worry about much different things than them. They believe the fundraiser will do well giving the children what they need during this devastating time.
VanCamp said that initially the group thought about collecting blankets or food to donate to Ukraine but decided that money would be the most helpful in a war where needs are changing all the time and where distribution of resources can get disorganized in Ukraine during this time, creating waste instead of help.
Instead of collecting resources, students collected money by putting jars with the writing “Save Ukraine’s Kids” around the community in spots like Durham Community Church, Echo Thrift Store, Oyster River Middle School, and The Juicery. The original goal for the students was to raise at least $1,000 from collecting in the jars. As of May 16th, students are pleased to be reaching their fundraising goals, already raising over $850.29 after about a month of distributing the cans. The Durham Community Church is also willing to match the donation giving them about $1,700 towards helping Ukrainian children. The students will finish up fundraising on May 16th, but within that time hope to make as much as they can to make as much of an impact as possible for Ukrainian children.
The $1,700 amount already achieved should provide the support to lots of children in need so they can eat, have medical supplies, and stay warm. According to Save the Children, every $50 can keep up to 3 children from going hungry for a month, every $150 can provide up to 30 blankets and every $300 can provide up to 150 face masks for medical professionals on the line helping in Ukraine. VanCamp is happy to be helping make these impacts and said that it made her realize that some of things we consider hard aren’t as hard as what other people are going through. The students want to make as much of a difference as they can, but believe their current impact already has been worth it.
Forselius explains, “if somebody is suffering in the world, we should always use our privilege to do the best we can to help others.” Forselius also adds that it’s very important to be informed by reading a variety of news sources and books to get the truth. Forselius, the coordinator of Oyster River Community Read, recommends participating in the Oyster River Community read which is doing an educational series on Ukraine. It gathers people in the community on a weekly basis to discuss and learn about the conflict through movies and videos.
VanCamp agrees with Forselius and adds that Oyster River is a community that has privilege and sometimes people forget that. She said, “sometimes kids don’t notice what other kids are going through. Some kids are struggling with water. Lots of [privileged] kids are thinking about things such as more toys and a better home or an expensive car, but [at the same time] some kids have to walk barefoot to school.”
Overall, Forselius and the students hope that their efforts not only will help families in Ukraine get more aid, but also people in this community will know how to help make an impact during these kinds of conflicts and will take a moment to think about those in need. For those wanting to help with this cause, they can put cash in the jars around downtown Durham spots or donate directly to the Save the Children website (savethechildren.org).
*Last name changed for anonymity