The war in Ukraine and the following refugee crisis have led ReachGlobal to respond in various ways across several different countries. In some places there's more opportunity for physical assistance, such as food, lodging, and transportation for the refugees, but all our responses try to extend beyond physical needs. ReachGlobal also offers trauma care training, coaching and equipping for local church leaders, support for Ukrainian kids to attend Christian summer camps, ministry for disabled and marginalized groups, and educational opportunities for displaced students. Jessica Maynard, serving with ReachGlobal in Romania, shares these stories of how Bucharest Christian Academy is responding to the Ukrainian Refugee Crisis.
Providing Stability Amidst the Uncertainty
When we first heard about the attack in Ukraine my mind started thinking, “How can we help?” At first, many of those fleeing Ukraine were staying close to the border, not knowing how long these attacks would last, desiring to return to their homes. My family lives in Bucharest, Romania’s capital, hours away from the Ukrainian border; it was understandable that we didn’t see refugees coming at the start of the war. As the days and weeks went on however that changed. Individuals, families, and churches joined together to jump into action to help in providing for the needs of these people, mostly women and children. My husband and I prayed about how God wanted us to be involved. People were needed to make “border runs” which meant transporting food, medicine, and other needed supplies to the border and retuning with people. Homes were needed to house refugees, some short term if they were just passing through towards another destination and some not knowing how long they were going to stay. With so much uncertainty, many were living day to day, hoping and praying the war would end. We did not feel God calling us to action in either of these ways. We felt God was asking us to just keep doing what we’re doing and he would show us how we could care for those he would bring to us.
My husband and I serve with ReachGlobal as MK Educators at Bucharest Christian Academy. I asked our director, if the opportunity arose, could we open our doors to welcoming refugee students? She enthusiastically agreed as she was sensing the same desire to help offer some sort of stability amongst the uncertainty. Our school shared our desire to help with several churches who in turn networked and connected with families beginning to “settle” in the waiting. At this point we have welcomed 16 refugee students, ranging from Kindergarten to 10th grade, some are Ukrainian while others or missionary kids who have grown up in Ukraine. If you were to walk through the halls of our school you would not be able to tell who these students are as they were welcomed in by each class they joined. They play soccer or tag together at recess. They practiced singing together, preparing for Easter Chapel. They partner up together for science labs or researching for a history presentation. The future is still uncertain for them, but at least these last few months of the school year can be a constant in their lives during this time.
Tower of Babel Moment
My husband and I often debrief the day with each other. (We spend the whole day in the same building and sometimes do not even see each other throughout the day.) It was the first or second day that Violetta had joined his fifth and sixth grade class when he shared this story with me. In history class, he asked the students a question to begin a discussion. Violetta wanted to be sure she understood the question, but she didn’t know the exact words in English so she asked another student, Natalia, in French. (Natalia is Romanian but also knows French and is learning English.) Natalia understood in French what Violetta had asked her, but wanted to confirm understanding, so she asked in Romanian for the correct English word from her Korean classmate, Soojin. This conversation continued for a few minutes in all three languages until all understood and were able to give an answer to the teacher’s original question. He shared with me that he wished he could have recorded this to capture the moment, his Tower of Babel moment, as he witnessed the complexity that comes with an international school and the care these students showed each other.
One Student’s Story
Journaling is often used in our Language Arts classes to help our students become better writers. It also helps students process and be forward thinkers. Here is one student’s story we asked to share with you about their recent experience:
"When the first day of the war began we didn’t go to school. My brother went with Dad to buy food. We didn’t want to leave at first. When the planes flew over we were already worried, then they started bombing Mariupol airport. We were already scared. We went to bed, but at five in the morning we there started to have huge explosions that already the floor was trembling. Dad says you need to leave at least to your grandmothers. My grandmother had no explosions and the planes were calm there. There were sirens, I don’t know why they were yelling."
As we welcome more students from Ukraine into our community and school, our need for English as a Second Language teacher has also increased. Whether you can join us for a longer period of time or perhaps just a semester, is God prompting you to help fill this need? There are so many needs surrounding the attack of Ukraine. Perhaps one way God may be asking you to help is to join us as our school seeks to provide stability amidst the uncertainty that these students and families are facing. Contact the school office at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more information. You can also get involved with the Ukrainian Refugee Response by praying, giving to the response, or bringing a short-term team to Poland to help with ESL or construction.
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