At schools across the region, students are encouraging peace, raising awareness and offering support to Ukrainians as they defend themselves against the Russian invasion.
Students at St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School in Alexandria aids an orphanage in Romania that has had an influx of Ukrainian orphans since the conflict began, says Rev. Elizabeth Rees, Upper School Religion Teacher and Chaplain.
“That has been a big focus of our support,” she said. “It’s been interesting to see how engaged the teenagers are in learning about what is happening. We had an optional forum during lunch led by our history faculty and it was really well-attended.”
The crisis has also allowed students to practice their faith. “Episcopal Relief and Development has been very focused on Ukraine,” said Rees. “It’s hard to know what to do other than raise money and offer prayers.”
Students who are members of the Good Samaritans Service Club at The Heights in Potomac, Md. are working to craft a plan to support the war-torn country, said Linda Maher, a spokeswoman for the school.
“It’s been interesting to see how engaged the teenagers are in learning about what is happening.”
— Rev. Elizabeth Rees, Upper School Religion Teacher and Chaplain, St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School
The creators of the Alexandria-based organization, Grow Hope are hosting a making, growing, gathering and peace event this weekend. Parents and their children will learn how to combine art and gardening to encourage peace while raising awareness and funds for victims of the crisis in Ukraine. Organizers Lisa Delmonico, Jenna Fournel and Kathryn Coneway, say that their goal is to give families an opportunity to help those in the war-torn country.
“We are suggesting visitors make a donation to an organization working to help the people of Ukraine,” said Fournel, who is hosting the event at her Alexandria home.
These who attend will be taught how to make peace bombs, which are balls of clay and soil that are infused with flower seeds. “When they dry, you can throw them in unexpected patches of soil where they’ll grow into a beautiful surprise,” said Fournel.
They will also learn to make plantable sunflower pots with newspaper. “We have lots of sunflower seeds and plenty of potting soil so you can plant seeds and take your pots home to germinate,” said Delmonico. “Ukraine’s sunflower has been a symbol of peace resistance.”
Delmonico, Fournel and Coneway will be on hand to teach event-goers the art of silk screening. “Bring a t-shirt or some other fabric you’d like to print the Grow Hope logo on and we’ll help you screen print your own Grow Hope image,” said Coneway.
College students across the region are also giving and receiving support. Dr. Jermaine F. Williams, Ph.D., president of Montgomery College, is reaching out to the school’s Ukrainian students to make them aware of the assistance, guidance and counseling services that are available to them. .
“Several dozen of our students hold visas from Ukraine and nations that surround it,” he said. “Being far from home when conditions turn violent can undoubtedly be a frightening experience.”
The staff at Marymount University’s Office of Ministry and Spiritual Life is planning a prayer service and vigil for peace this Thursday, said Jasmine Pelaez of the school’s communications office.
A myriad of mental health counseling services are available to students at George Mason University. The school established the Ukraine Crisis Support Fund to help students who might have lost monetary support that they receive in their home country.