‘Michigan for Ukraine’ Fundraiser and Kids Pen Pal Program are Making a Difference Across the World

“We began with having a lesson about just what’s going on, where is Ukraine, where is Russia, what is a refugee.”

Since the start in February— Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II, displacing at least 17 million Ukrainians.

“I come from a family of immigrants and whenever there is people that are forced to move out of their country against their will, in adverse circumstances, it hits hard,” says Woodland School teacher Piotr Buniewicz.

For many people– like Woodland School teacher Piotr Buniewicz and Co-Founder of Taiwan-Legit, Yulin Chen-Landvoy– this war has hit much too close to home.

Yulin shares, “Being a Taiwanese-American, the idea of democracy, the idea of freedoms and my rights, are always front and center. It’s very personal. Many, many sleepless nights.”

Piotr, Yulin, and President of MidWest International and Co-Founder of Taiwan-Legit Walter Pair —
Came together to directly support the people of Ukraine with a local fundraising program– ‘Michigan for Ukraine.’

Pair says, “MidWest International, Taiwan-Legit, and Olkusz Pomaga Ukraine, which is an organization in Poland, we are partnering up to help bring donated items to Ukraine. We’re going to acquire the goods in Poland, work with our partner in Poland and bring those items into Lviv. And in Lviv they’re actually going to be packaged up and taken to the town of Nizhyn.”

They’re even connecting students from Traverse City, and Petoskey with other children in Ukraine– Writing heartfelt pen pal letters– in hopes of sharing some positivity from across the world.

“I approached Mr. Buniewicz at Woodland School and we allowed the kids to take over. And they did! What they did was remarkable,” says Chen-Landvoy.

Buniewicz says, “With her help we devised things that were appropriate for the kids to be able to help, without making them feel like too much disparity, talk too much about war, but talk about how kids can actually help refugees, and people, and children who are struggling.”

“We want to provide them an opportunity to be able to talk to our kids about conflict, and also be a part of the solution,” says Pair.

But it didn’t just stop at pen pal letters.

Buniewicz explains, “Students were extremely creative. There was a child who had a magic show for his family and charged two dollars for entry, there was a club of kids that would skip recess in order to make comics. They called it BAM Comics. Some students started selling earrings, started doing tasks for neighbors and for family members.”

Like Beckett and Leonardo, whose drive and eagerness to help were taken beyond the classroom.

Beckett explains, “We started selling comics for like a dollar, and if you wanted to rent them and give them back for $.50. We drew them all by ourselves. We stapled them, copied them, edited them. Leonardo started making earrings, those were off the charts, people were buying them so much. We were selling them for $4. I’m pretty sure we raised like $150 from just earrings.”

Leonardo says, “Most of the beads on every single one are made out of vintage beads from my great grandma. One other way some people can support ukraine without giving money is if they go to my youtube channel, every subscriber I get I will donate $.10 to ukraine so that will build up.”

It leaves a lasting impact on youth both here  and abroad— but it’s also a reminder that together we can truly make a difference.

Chen-Landvoy says, “They are the catalyst and they are the spark for this project.”

Beckett shares, “No matter how hard it is just keep thinking positive, this might end someday.”

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