SALT LAKE CITY — Since war erupted on Feb. 24, millions of Ukrainians have been forced to leave their country, some with just the clothes they were wearing. The United Nations has recorded 2,729 civilian deaths among Ukrainians related to the violence, mostly due to the Russian shelling and missile strikes. This figure is believed to be considerably lower than the actual civilian death toll.
To help deal with this crisis, people and organizations worldwide have launched emergency efforts. In Utah, the nonprofit Ukrainian Association has been formed by volunteers to provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine. One of their fundraising efforts, a concert, was held in March at the Cathedral of the Madeleine.
Among the performers were the Choristers of The Madeleine Choir School. For the concert, MCS choir director Melanie Malinka encouraged the students to wear accessories like hair ribbons or earrings in the colors of the Ukrainian flag. That suggestion led one of participating choristers to her own fundraising efforts.
“I have always loved to make crafts, so I had the idea to make a heart-shaped pin in the colors of the Ukrainian flag to wear on my uniform blazer,” said eighth-grade student Georgia Ohman, who is also a member of the school’s student council. “My friends had all liked the pin I made, so I began to wonder what I could make and actually sell to donate to the society. I decided blue and yellow perler bead keychains would be the most appealing to the most people.”
Ohman approached her school advisor with the idea of making keychains and selling them on the school campus. Then, because the beads and keychains were donated, she was able to give all of the $581 she raised to the Ukrainian Association to help those in need, “which was a great feeling,” she said.
“It’s really important for young people to realize that they’re never too young to help; that even the smallest thing can help to make a difference,” she said, adding that seeing many kids using their allowance or doing extra chores to earn money to buy a keychain, making the donation possible, made her feel very proud.
“I think it’s important to remember that even though it’s certainly not the largest donation they’ll receive, that doesn’t make it any less impactful,” Ohman said. “Every amount, every thought, and every action can make a difference, whether it’s about helping Ukrainian refugees, slowing climate change or helping our community in some way.”
Ohman’s initiative with this project has made her parents proud, said her mother, Stephanie Ohman. “It’s inspiring to see her being a leader and standing up for things she feels are important. We are very proud.”
Megan Randazzo, principal of The Madeleine Choir School, agreed that Georgia Ohman’s initiative was inspiring. “Georgia’s efforts were an incredible example of the motto we have at MCS, ‘Caritas Christi urget nos – the Love of Christ compels us,’” Randazzo said. “Efforts like this and the day-to-day actions and words of our students shine often. I am grateful to be a part of a school and diocese that fosters love of God, self and others each and every day.”