A Grade 9 student at Panorama Ridge Secondary School, who was born in Kyiv, Ukraine, has been fundraising to support his home country as Russia’s invasion carries on.
Illya Gekhman has raised $1,400 and collected piles of donations to support Ukraine , according to a release from the Surrey school district.
Gekhman, who immigrated to Canada in 2012, was born in Kyiv. He was inspired to start the fundraiser at his school following the recent invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
The district notes that in “just three days, the fundraiser gathered $1,400 and filled an office with donations of clothing, toiletries, first aid supplies and other essential items.”
“I just really wanted to help my country,” said Gekhman. “Most of my family lives here but I do have some family still in Ukraine.”
He said his family has been able to contact his relatives in Ukraine, who have found safety from the conflict zones.
During the fundraiser, the district said the school also hosted a Spirit Day where students and staff wore yellow and blue, the colours of the Ukrainian flag.
“I was shocked by the number of people who wanted to donate – we had a donation of $225 from just one student,” he said. “There were a lot of donations and people bringing in multiple bags of clothes and items and brand new toiletries.
“I thought we would get a lot less, but on the last day, I was looking at the room with all the clothes and there was a huge pile – I was thankful for everything that everyone had done.”
Gekhman said the money will go to the Ukrainian army for supplies such as heavyweight bandages to manage wounds, and humanitarian aid packages will be shipped through Meest, a Toronto-based shipping organization with ties to Ukraine.
Gekhman is encouraging others to donate to the Canadian Red Cross, UNICEF or other credible charitable organizations supporting Ukraine.
Meantime, Russia’s military announced Tuesday it will “fundamentally” scale back operations near Ukraine’s capital and a northern city, as talks brought a possible deal to end the grinding war into view.
While Russia portrayed the step as a goodwill gesture, it comes as the Kremlin’s troops have become bogged down in the face of stiff Ukrainian resistance that has thwarted President Vladimir Putin’s hopes for a quick military victory.
In the weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine, more than four million refugees have left the country.
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– With files from the Associated Press