Update on our efforts…

Ukraine

Our efforts communicated to the community on March 2 are in full swing now and this is an update of our status of enrollments and our ongoing service efforts.

Our first focus has been serving a displaced population of students from the CEESA schools most affected in the early stages by the war in Ukraine. In total, 4 schools were forced to evacuated for reasons of armed conflict or political unrest. This includes the two schools in Kyiv, one school in Minsk, and my previous school in Moscow. From this list, more than 60 have reached out for possible placement and we are currently serving about 19 from that list. Others are still in process and some that were originally offered spots have now moved on to other countries or new assignments. In some cases, in order to preserve class size limits, we are only providing part schedules to upper school students where we have space. Some of these students will remain connected to their teachers from their prior school virtually for some classwork. A tremendous thank you to the Admissions department for adding this process to their already busy season of new applications for next year

It’s important to note that these families have been invited to apply for next year, but they will join the existing application process. As you all know, we have challenges at some grade levels and waiting lists are already forming.

Our humanitarian and service initiatives continue to be ongoing and robust. We are working to keep you updated on our work, but it is daunting at times with many initiatives going on at the same time. In general, we have organized as follows:

We have a core team led by our long time Service Learning Coordinator, Ligita Miele, and it has generally established three tiers of action in a collaboration between students, staff, and PTO. PTO is providing additional insights below in eNotes.

Tier 1 was focused on supporting refugees in our ASW community homes.  This includes finding additional homes, coordinating support and leveraging community resources.  We foresaw a need for everything from legal support to medical needs and asked our community what they could offer. We quickly started up a meal train with families providing meals to host families to support feeding refugees.  In order to make this sustainable, we set up a makeshift kitchen and a volunteer chef from the United States flew to Warsaw to help expand the donated preparation space into a competent volunteer preparation center.  We now send out prepared and packaged meals to more than 100 each day in support of our host families.  Tier 1 is also focused on transitional planning and supporting the move of refugees to onward destinations which may include reuniting with families in other EU countries or other destinations.  We also provide COVID testing with our medical partner, Epixpert, when symptoms emerge or as needed in advance of travel. We can’t begin to thank enough members of the community that continue to donate their time, buildings, resources, and effort toward taking care of the refugees in our midst.

Tier 2 is focused on moving donations and supplies to both the above supported refugees locally and the broader refugee population located in Warsaw and to the east along the border. Utilizing the direction of our partner, the Refugee Center, we have directed a massive amount of goods and materials to these destinations, now totalling more than 1600 boxes of clothing, food, baby supplies, pet supplies, etc.  Student and parent volunteers sort and repackage donations that are literally streaming in from around the world.  Trucks unload regularly and we facilitate new trucks with sorted goods to all of the recommended destinations.

Tier 3 is focused on other sustainable efforts.  We are now looking at the establishment of a school-based foundation.  We are currently using the pre-existing school charitable foundation in the US (501c3) that is already aligned with this work under service learning here at the school. But, we are now moving close to US$100K in donations and considering the sustainable activities of the above tiers and going further into other areas.  The long-term implications of 2.5 million people is daunting to consider.  Right now, we are a bridging activity while government funding (Polish and offshore) is organized and funneled to refugees.  Our development of a school-based foundation would further support these efforts in partnership with these agencies and expand our outreach to those in transition.  This foundation could also be an opportunity to serve the organization of preserving Ukrainian education in the longer term here in Poland as well as further west into Europe, where many of the refugees are likely to migrate. Tier 3 also includes grade level projects that might include tutoring and other activities for refugee children using weekend and after school hours.

Donations are being directed to a wide range of activities that fill gaps and provide for logistics for getting donations to where they are needed most. Funds have been spent to get supplies that were not otherwise donated or fill gaps in clothing sizes where necessary according to the requests. Materials such as boxes and small equipment have been purchased that is combined with donated spaces to provide services. We also support transportation by truck of our processed donations to the centers requesting support in addition to what is used by the 110 refugees we are currently housing with families. So far, we’ve sent multiple vans full of supplies to the border and more loads are in preparation. Funds also provide for supermarket shopping cards to help bridge gaps for refugees who arrive without access to resources. Thus far, using in-kind donations, we have only spent about 10% of the funds raised to date. We are looking at this fund and choosing projects carefully to make sure that the resources are sufficient to support the demand over a longer term.

There is much here to still learn and this is providing students with key opportunities to learn more directly about service at a critical time. We have a strong leadership team made up of a lead school administrator, effective parent leaders, and a cadre of student leaders.  We have a strong school ethic of service and care, embedded in the fabric of our core values.  In this regard, we have all the tools we need to continue to be both resilient and effective.

COVID

We continue to watch current numbers on infections and latest medical advice. As you are all aware, there has been reporting in the news regarding the sub-variant of Omicron that now accounts for most of the new infections. I’ve had a couple of comments in our ongoing survey regarding this current wave that may be, according to data collected, more of a ripple.

While it is hard to predict, the Omicron BA.2 variant has demonstrated that it is more infectious than the main strain and now accounts for a large percentage of cases in areas where studies have checked through genomic testing. These numbers are believed to be the source of recent increases in European countries. While overall community spread continues to mediate, our recent cases may be related to this variant. We are hopeful that this won’t be as serious as the prior wave and it does seem that symptoms tend to me more mild, particularly for those vaccinated.

We continue to review this medical data along with our survey data that continues to come in. Thank you for sharing your thoughts HERE! We’ll share this compiled data and our decisions regarding mask wearing timelines next week. It does seem clear from the survey so far that we will not be ready any changes in early April, so our focus will be on considering dates later in the spring.

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