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'This is a way for us to help': Oak Bay students begin fundraising drive to help two Ukrainian schools

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A group of students from the leadership class at Oak Bay High School is about to embark on a major fundraising project.

“We’re trying to raise $20,000 for two generators to go to Ukraine,” said Caylie McDougall, a Grade 10 student at the school.

Those generators will go to two schools to help in a learning environment that those students can barely imagine.

Victor Pas is the mayor of Kamin Kashyrsk, a small town in the northwest of Ukraine.

He says with air raid sirens constantly sounding throughout the country, students are often forced to spend their entire day in their school’s bomb shelter. While Russian rockets continue to target the country’s power grid, prolonged rolling blackouts are common, leaving students to learn in the dark.

“It almost makes it impossible to learn,” said Kevin Murdoch, the mayor of Oak Bay.

Hearing what the students in that community have to go through on an almost daily basis, Murdoch wanted to help.

“This war is still going on and Russia is still bombing their infrastructure,” said Murdoch. “They are trying to knock out their heat and their power.”

“This is a way for us to help in some small way,” he continued.

A school's bomb shelter in the small town of Kamin Kashyrsk in northwestern Ukraine. The school suffers from rolling blackouts due to Russian rocket attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure. The goal is to raise $20,000 to buy two diesel generators for two schools to keep the lights on during those blackouts.Murdoch partnered with the Shawn Boulding, the principal of Oak Bay High School, to take on the project.

“I know how schools are the heart of communities and how important it is that they are up and running,” said Boulding. “Providing light, heat, shelter and those types of things and then school on top of that.”

“We are almost there,” said Bob Beckett, a member of the team that will once again be returning to Ukraine.

That group had a fundraising goal of $50,000 to purchase medical aid for that country’s overwhelmed hospital system. Now that goal has been met—on on top of 16 pallets of medical supplies already on their way to the war-torn country.

“A small town called Olyka had reached out to us saying we desperately need a school bus to move the children from schools that have no bomb shelters, to a school that has a bomb shelter,” said Beckett.

Through the community of Colwood, $32,000 was raised and a bus was purchased in Poland. It is now up and running, moving children in Olyka between schools.

The focus now is the generator project.

“Really this is going to require just a lot of small donations from across the entire south island to hit our goals,” said Murdoch.

The Oak Bay High School students are trying to imagine the struggles kids their own age are facing in Ukraine. They say they are up for the fundraising challenge.

“We definitely should be able to pull it off,” said McDougall.

“I think as long as we get the word out and people know what’s going on, we can come together and do it,” said Regen Wharran, a Grade 10 student.

Donations can be made at vancouverislandsupportsukraine.ca.

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