BILLINGS, Mont. – Adults get to teach children about life. But it’s the children that sometimes teach the adults about what life is really all about. Go inside any classroom in the United States, and the caring and compassion will overflow.
Canyon Creek School 4th grade teacher Carey See is proud of the group she has in her classroom this year.
“We build a big community in here, we are kind of like a family, so they have that good-heartedness," See says of her kids.
It’s all one big family in her classroom. The typical school subjects are taught. Math, science, reading.
But the topic for today’s lesson might be surprising. It’s Eastern Europe and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
"I knew that some of them were talking about it amongst themselves, and so I did a lesson on it, and gained their opinions on how they felt about it." See says.
It was in that discussion that Mrs. See came up with a new project: write letters to children, just like them, in Ukraine.
"They got their paper, and they said 'Dear Child in Ukraine'. Then they were like, 'Mrs. See, we don't know what to write.'"
Of course, they didn’t know what to write, because their experiences are different.
It was Mrs. See helping the children realize the true reality of the situation.
"We had a discussion about how these kids were leaving their home, they don't know the language, they don't know when they are getting fed next, they have to spend hours on these trains.” See says. “I just put it to them like that. 'What would you need to hear if you were going through that?' And they just poured out their hearts." Says See.
"I wrote that, ‘stay safe, believe in yourself, believe in others, have couragness, whatever makes you feel calm, do that’,” says 4th grader Rynn Sironi. Her classmate Logan Stebbins was also thrilled about the project.
"I hope they feel happy and excited, and very knowing that we are here for them," Stebbins says.
The empathy flows throughout the classroom, as the kids took their class project to heart. Beautiful pictures and heartfelt words filled the pages.
With letters in hand, Mrs. See reached out to me, saying ‘Help Me Ben’, as she struggled to find a way to get the messages from Billings to the children who’ve left Ukraine, and are now refugees in Poland.
Ironically, a group of Montana State University students might just be the solution Mrs. See’s classroom needs.
Over their spring break, a small group of students founded a non-profit to raise money and support for Ukraine. They have been collecting medical supplies to send over to the region.
“We have many contacts in Poland and we are directly talking to them,” says Karolina Konieczna, one of the organizers of the group who is also a Polish native. “We know people working on the border we have people who are working on medicine field there are ambulances so we are getting a list of things they are missing right now."
Over the last two weeks, the group has been figuring out the logistics of sending in supplies to a difficult part of the world.
"We have worked out the logistics of how to get these items sent over and put in a hand of medical professionals who are working in Poland in the border area and also in the war zone," says organizer Steve Houtz.
After talking with the group, they were thrilled to include the class’ letters with their medical supplies.
The hope is that doctors and nurses who are helping treat Ukrainian refugees in Poland will pass out the letters to little ones, and give them something to smile about. And that smile, all thanks to some incredible 4th graders in Billings, Montana.
Our team dropped off the letters with Karolina and her group on March 24, and they sent the letters off to Eastern Europe on March 26.
They should arrive in Poland hopefully by the end of this coming week. Karolina has promised us pictures and videos with Ukrainian children holding the letters, and we will bring you those updates in the next few weeks.
If you would like to provide some support, or make a donation to the Ukrainian relief effort group, you can visit their website here.