FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — As millions of families continue to leave their homes in Ukraine seeking safety, one Fairfax County school decided to help by sending messages of hope to those families.
Students at Freedom Hill Elementary learned a powerful lesson that an act of kindness can spread, even across the world.
The stack of 70 letters were hand-delivered to Ukrainian refugees by principal Nicholas Zapadka.
"Like all Americans, we had all been reading the news about Ukraine in the refugee crisis and the terrible war happening there. I had heard from some friends in Germany that they were expecting refugees to come into Western Germany and they were seeking places for them to live, monetary donations, food donations clothing, and I decided since I had a few days off, why not go over and help," said Zapadka.
Zapadka had studied abroad in Germany and planned a last-minute trip back to help at a Red Cross refugee camp.
"There was a train station right beside the refugee camp and every few hours the camp would get a phone call from the German rail system that there are refugees coming in in about 10 minutes, please meet them at the rail line to take them to the refugee camp," said Zapadka.
Zapadka didn't travel empty-handed. Before leaving town, he reached out to the school community asking for help. The school community responded in a big way by turning in a stack of cards to deliver to families overseas.
"As a principal, I felt immense pride and I felt like what we are doing is a school community is working. Look at these young kids who wanted to contribute and wanted to give back and improve someone’s world for a brief moment with a card," said Zapadka.
They began making cards and pulling together materials. The students even used Google Translate to help write their messages in Ukrainian.
"Some really heartfelt messages, like 'we know you are struggling right now but we are thinking about you from overseas,'" said Zapadka.
The students wrote letters of support and sent their love to families across the world.
"What I would try to do with most of them was meet families on the train tracks when they were leaving for another city. As they were leaving, I would explain to them, I know I’ve been helping you for a few hours but I’m actually a teacher in America and these are from some of our students," said Zapadka.
"Our world is super globalized right now and it’s easier than you think to make that kind of impact," said Zapadka.
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