While their friends were having fun during spring break, Karl Lundsbye and Rowan Hermiston were brainstorming ways to help the people of Ukraine.
The two youth have been watching coverage of the war with a mix of sadness and horror, especially as children their age flee their homes or are forced to shelter underground as the Russian troops bomb Ukrainian cities. During a walk around 100 Mile House Marsh last week, they came up with the idea of A Peace Walk for Ukraine, a march and fundraiser set for noon on Sunday, March 27.
“I saw a news article about nine newborn babies who are being taken care of inside of a basement in Kiyv and I decided that this was getting way too crazy to continue,” said Karl, 11, a Grade 6 student at 100 Mile Elementary. “The biggest country in the world wanting more power (and territory) is horrible, especially because they’re not doing it politically and peacefully. They’re killing people.”
Karl noted some Ukrainian families have had to walk more than 50 kilometres to get to safety. In solidarity, he and Rowan will start their march at the South Cariboo Visitors Centre, with a goal to walk around the marsh as many times as they can. They both intend to wear blue and yellow, the colours of the Ukrainian flag, and carry signs calling for peace.
They’re inviting the entire community to join them and donate to the cause, either in person or by sending an e-transfer to Karl’s mom firstname.lastname@example.org. The two have already met their initial goal of $200 for the Ukrainian Red Cross and have now raised their hopes to collect $1,000. As of Tuesday morning, they’ve raised $700.
“People can join if they want or just sit around and just watch,” said Rowan, 10, a student at Mile 108 Elementary School.
READ MORE: Fighting for peace and freedom in Ukraine
Rowan said she was inspired to help Ukraine by Canim Lake resident Peter Reichert, who spent the first few weeks of the Ukraine invasion picketing by the side of Highway 97. Reichert carried a sign with a Ukrainian flag that read Stop Putin, and was accompanied by an effigy of Putin with a pig nose. Reichert is working toward opening his home to Ukrainian refugees, as an estimated 3.5 million people have fled as Russian armed forces continue to bombard and invade its cities.
Melissa Hermiston and Karl’s mother Kimberly Vance-Lundsbye said they’re proud of their children taking a stance against the invasion. Vance-Lundsbye said it’s good for their mental health to do something rather than simply worry about the war.
“We’re really proud they want to take the initiative to do something and that they’re showing concern for people on the other side of the world they’ve never met,” Hermiston added. “As a parent, it’s nice to know that your kids are showing that kind of empathy.”
Karl said no one should have to live through war. Whatever the outcome of their fundraiser, both he and Rowan hope the war in Ukraine can be brought to a swift and peaceful end. They agree wholeheartedly with Reichert, who called Putin a pig for what he’s done.
“I just feel so bad for people who are affected by the pig,” Rowan said. “Ukraine shouldn’t be his mud to lay in.”