For many young people in the U.S., the Ukraine war is the first they’ve witnessed in real time. Their hearts have been broken by footage of children clinging to their mothers, clutching bags containing all their earthly possessions.
“I feel bad for the Ukrainian kids because I feel they should be able to live a normal life,” says Taury, a student at Park Street School in Boston. For young people like Taury, it can be overwhelming to see their peers suffering.
Turning compassion into action
“When you have so much of this information, you can easily be paralyzed by it and lose hope,” says Dr. Katie Wiens, executive director of the Council on Educational Standards and Accountability (CESA). According to Wiens, it’s critical for Christians of all ages to respond with support, but also to remember that God is a God of love, and that He is in control.
“If we know that God is truly a God of justice and compassion, then we know He is all-powerful and we can respond with wisdom, with purpose, and without being weighed down to a degree that’s not helpful,” she says. “Our hearts should break for this, but we can’t stay there.”
As an experienced Christian educator, Wiens wanted to help young people find a way to process their feelings about the war by creating an opportunity for them to help. Her thoughts turned to World Vision Ignite — a partnership with Christian schools that challenges young people to engage with the world and live out their faith. She drafted a letter to CESA schools, encouraging them to support families displaced by the conflict through Ignite. One by one, schools began to respond as students, families, and staff came forward to help.
A generous outpouring
Other schools were stirred by the need as well. In all, students at Christian schools around the U.S. have raised more than $80,000 through World Vision’s Ignite program to benefit people impacted by the Ukraine war. Their fundraising efforts have not only provided critical help for children and families in need, but they have also provided an important, tangible way for these young people to make a difference for those personally affected by a war that’s unfolded before their eyes.
The funds raised by these schools are already being put to good use. World Vision’s emergency response programs meet physical needs by providing access to essentials like food and temporary shelter. And World Vision’s Child-Friendly Spaces help meet the emotional needs of children impacted by traumatic experiences. In these safe spaces, kids can play, engage in informal learning, and express their worries and fears to trained, caring staff.
Students motivated to help others
At Park Street School, Taury and other students felt compelled to help ensure that kids from Ukraine were protected and cared for. They approached staff members, asking if they could help as a school.
One Park Street student, Eleanor, was stirred to action by seeing displaced children in the news. “I wanted to help because I was watching TV one night and I saw a lot of kids who had no place to go,” she says. “Kids who don’t have the privileges we do. Kids who have been separated from their families and have no safe places to go. It made me sad.”
“It would be hard to grow up in the middle of a war and have to flee,” says another student, Draper. “I [thought], we should raise money so they can have a safe way out of there.”
So together, students and staff at Park Street created the “Children Helping Children” Ukraine Fund to support kids impacted by the war through World Vision. They held a walkathon that netted more than $16,000 — far more than they anticipated.
“Students have not only met their goal, but have surpassed it six times over,” says Tracy Bradley, head of school for Park Street. “We are so proud of them, and so grateful for their hearts that are growing in empathy and compassion for others. We are excited to see the real-life leadership skills they are developing, and for the hope they’ve expressed in wanting to be a part of making a difference.”
World Vision’s Ignite program was created to help schools provide opportunities like this for students — tangible, effective experiences that empower them to live out their faith, right where they are. Through Ignite, students are challenged to learn about issues impacting the world and to create lasting solutions through academics, relationships, and experiences. Powered by World Vision’s 71 years of experience, the partnership helps schools shape students into global leaders with a biblical worldview. To learn more about partnering with World Vision through Ignite, visit worldvision.org/ignite.