When Vandeventer Middle School art teacher Leanne Rainey received an email from a Frisco community member asking if students might
be interested in sending artwork to Ukrainian refugee children in Ossa, Poland, Rainey was quick to say yes.
“Art is a universal language that my students speak, so I provided it as an optional, choice-based project for students who wanted to participate,” Rainey said. “The kids were excited and eager to help.”
As an example, Rainey made a sunflower and explained how it was the national flower of Ukraine. It wasn’t long until students began researching facts about Ukraine and embedding them in the art. During advisory time and when students finished classwork
early, Rainey provided students with paper, supplies and time to work on creative projects to send to Poland.
“The students wanted to create meaningful art and to spark joy, so the research was important to the students who wanted to make sure the children felt seen,” Rainey said.
Students created a variety of items including drawings, paintings, soft sculptures, friendship bracelets and more to send across the globe. Along with the art, students also wrote encouraging messages in Ukrainian because they wanted to make sure the
recipients understood the words of encouragement.
With more than 700 orphans in the community the art was going to, Vandeventer students had hopes that the art would lift the spirits of the Ukrainian children but they had no idea just how impactful their art would be in Poland.
Children and staff at the orphanage received the art and were surprised to learn that there were people in Texas who care and wanted to do this for them. According to Vandeventer parent Firuza Savchenko who helped facilitate the artistic gift, several
cried tears of joy and relief, realizing that across the world people were thinking of them and showing compassion.
The small felt soft sculptures of animals that traveled across the globe were soon used as puppets during storytime for the 3- to 5-year-old children. It wasn’t long before the children had named them and were taking turns playing and sleeping with
The drawings generated lots of discussion and questions about the students at Vandeventer. The Ukrainian children wanted to know where the City of Frisco was, things about Texas and discussed what the two parts of the world have in common. The teachers
in Poland said it was a great distraction and a way for the students to learn something new.
The Ukrainian children were overjoyed to have art that they could call their own that reflected reminders of home. They used the art to add some joy and color to the barren walls of their hotel rooms while they awaited evacuation to a neighboring European
“The art of the Vandeventer students was incredibly touching,” Savchenko said. “We cannot thank the Vandeventer art students enough for their compassion.”
Rainey is proud of her students who jumped at the opportunity to create art for others.
“My students have been overjoyed hearing about how their kindness and creativity has positively impacted others!” Rainey said.