Us with Ukraine

North Tama exchange students start fundraiser for Ukraine

Us with Ukraine logo.

Just after 9 o’clock this past Sunday morning, two North Tama High School senior foreign exchange students – Daniela Moraru of Moldova and Silva Vardanian of Armenia – stood at the front of Clutier Community Church’s sanctuary and asked the congregation for their help.

[This is] a very important subject,” Vardanian began. “There is war in Ukraine.”

If it were up to Vardanian and Moraru, Russia would never have invaded Ukraine this past February 24, peace would permeate across eastern Europe, and the refugees now seeking shelter in both their home countries would be able to return to their communities, their homes, and their families.

In addition to the empathy both students feel for Ukraine’s people, they also share a common worry of many who reside in the countries surrounding Ukraine – while Moldova borders Ukraine to the south, Armenia is located southwest of Ukraine, across the Black Sea in Asia.

“We are a small country,” Moraru told the congregation of her homeland. “I know that if Ukraine falls, we are to be the next one.”

Silva Vardanian (left) and Daniela Moraru (right), both senior foreign exchange students at North Tama High School, speak to the congregation of Clutier Community Church on Sunday, April 24, about their Us with Ukraine fundraiser. –Photo by Soren M. Peterson

With a powerpoint presentation running in the background displaying images of the war, both Moraru and Vardania explained how since Russia’s invasion, Ukraine’s economy has collapsed, buildings have been destroyed across the country including schools, churches, and hospitals, and those who are still alive in the war zones are going hungry if not altogether starving.

“Even though Ukraine is bombarded,” Moraru said, “the World Food Programme still have food banks inside the country … to provide people with basic ingredients to live.”

The World Food Programme (WFP) – a member of the United Nations – describes itself as the world’s largest humanitarian organization. WFP works in 117 countries and territories including Ukraine to bring food to people displaced by conflict and disasters.

In an article dated April 13 on WFP’s website detailing the organization’s work in Ukraine since Russia invaded, WFP’s global spokesperson Tomson Phiri writes, “Driving into Ukraine, for every car I saw I probably saw three massive tractors hauling agricultural equipment. This is Europe’s breadbasket and everybody is producing something. … After weeks of conflict, however, many agricultural fields across Ukraine have been turned into battlefields. The World Food Programme (WFP) is deeply concerned about the families trapped in hard-to-reach, embattled cities such as Mariupol, which is facing critical shortages of food, water and other essential supplies.”

Part of WFP’s work in Ukraine – with the help of Ukrainian Red Cross – is to provide emergency food rations and cash to people in need. Rations consist of a food basket of canned meat, cereal, and pulses (legumes). According to Phiri’s article, WFP has so far distributed more than $1.2 million in cash to Ukrainian families in need.

Photo by Soren M. Peterson

Moraru and Vardanian shared with the Clutier congregation on Sunday that they have started a fundraiser ‘Us with Ukraine’ meant to benefit WFP’s work in Ukraine.

“[WFP’s emergency boxes] will feed one family for up to one month,” Moraru said. “Seventy-five dollars purchases one box. Our goal is to raise $1,000.”

In addition to the Clutier church, the students also visited St. Paul Catholic Church in Traer the night before to speak about their fundraising efforts, and they were traveling to Traer United Presbyterian Church following the Clutier service to do the same.

While each of the churches has set up a special collection for the fundraiser, for those outside the church communities who would also like to donate, checks can be made out to World Food Program USA and mailed to Moraru’s host mother, Kim Calderwood, 2028 160th Street, Traer, IA 50675. Checks or cash donations can also be dropped off with Calderwood at New Century FS in Traer.

One-hundred percent of the donations ‘Us with Ukraine’ receives will go toward WFP’s Ukraine emergency fund.

“This is [a] very important subject to me,” Vardanian said toward the end of her remarks. “I was in war in [Armenia] in 2020. You are also being apart [from family] … you will think that you will not see them again, that is the hardest part.”

“[But] there is hope. … That’s what I want Ukraine people to feel.”

Story update: Since beginning their fundraising efforts less than a week ago, Us with Ukraine has raised more than $3,000 locally for the World Food Programme’s Ukraine emergency fund.