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How American Students Helped Send a Ukrainian Boy to Summer Camp
535 million children — nearly 1 in 4 — live in countries affected by violent conflict or disaster. UNICEF spent nearly $690 million on child protection programs in 2017, and reached more than 5.9 million children with landmine-risk education. Please help UNICEF help children growing up in conflict zones.
Aleksey, 14, was walking along a road in conflict-ridden eastern Ukraine when a military convoy passed by. "Something fell off one of the vehicles," he recalled. "It looked like it could be a pen. When I touched it, it exploded in my hands. My first feeling was shock and pain. I looked down and saw the fingers were hanging from my hand."
He lost his thumb and two fingers from his right hand. "My whole life has changed," he said. "I can't do everything I could do before without my fingers, but I'm getting used to it. I'm learning how to write with my left hand. It's not very good yet, but I'm trying. Sometimes I get so upset, I break into tears."
Thousands of miles away, a classroom of sixth graders in Lyons, NY watched as Aleksey told his story in a UNICEF video. They learned that the war in Ukraine is in its fifth year, and there is no end in sight. For the past two years, Aleksey's family has been living in a house without running water, electricity or gas. They have almost no money for food.
"It made me sad because I don't think anyone should go through that," said Darius, 12. "It made me imagine: What if I was there? What if that was happening to me? How would I feel?"
Darius and his classmates decided to hold a walkathon to raise money to send Aleksey to camp. "I personally have been to summer camp and I think it's really fun," said Darius. They carried homemade posters that said, "We have friends in Ukraine." As they marched, they chanted, "Kids are kids. We're all the same!"
Thanks to his friends in the U.S., Aleksey attended summer camp in Ukraine this year. The camp offers special psychological support for children who have been affected by conflict.
"Things that we take for granted, we really shouldn't," said Hailey, 12. "Because some kids, like in Ukraine, have less than us. With everything that we have, we should be thankful for it. And try to help others."
Top photo: After Aleksey, 14, was maimed by a grenade in eastern Ukraine, sixth graders in Lyons, NY held a walkathon to raise money to send him to summer camp. © UNICEF/UN0150855/Gilbertson VII Photo