It can be difficult to know how to help people far away who are dealing with realities that most would consider a nightmare.
Some people seem to have obvious options based on their careers, whether that’s by donating money, helping extract people in war zones or personally driving to the border with much-needed essential supplies.
But there are other ways to help, even for those who might not have years of experience or bank accounts at their disposal, including the way Utah’s First Lady Abby Cox came up with.
I love this idea from First Lady @AbbyPalmerCox Hoping we get lots of participation from our @SevierSchoolDis students and teachers! Everyone wants to know how they can help… this is a great start. #seviersdstrong @ShowUpUtah #showingupiseasy pic.twitter.com/BFOiqA1sto
— Cade J. Douglas Ph.D (@CadeDoug) March 15, 2022
Addressing school-age children specifically, Cox made a request.
“This week I am asking Utah’s school children to write letters and cards, or draw artwork, offering friendship and encouragement to Ukrainian refugee children,” Cox wrote in a letter that has been circulated.
“I have seen how this kind of gift can lift the recipient and develop empathy in the sender. Let’s share our caring Utah spirit with those who need it most.”
And the kids responded with an overwhelming amount of letters, some even going the extra mile and writing them in Ukrainian — with a little help, of course.
“One of our 3rd grade teachers, Ms. Lilly Lublin was able to get our messages translated into Ukrainian,” Entheos Academy – Kearns Campus shared on Facebook.
“Ukraine’s national flower is the sunflower, hence all the beautiful sunflower drawings. See some attached photos of artwork completed by our students to accompany the humanitarian relief shipment being sent to Poland from Utah to help Ukrainian refugees.”
But once all the letters were received, there was still the matter of getting them into the hands of the refugee children. It was just the opportunity Dirk Astle of Salt Lake City had been hoping for.
Astle, the Salt Lake City franchise owner of The Melting Pot fondue restaurant, had watched as people from his church had gone abroad and made a difference for the refugees, and he wanted to do something similar.
“I thought I could do this, [too],” Astle told Fox News. “I have frequent flyer miles. I have time in my schedule right now. I should go help.
“I could not shake it from my mind. I told a few people and one good friend gave me the advice to always follow the impressions you cannot shake.”
When he found out about the letters, the match was immediate. Arrangements were quickly made for him to take 100 pounds of handwritten, heartfelt letters to Poland.
“The drawing room table at the governor’s mansion was completely flooded with letters,” Astle continued. “I consolidated my gear into a carry-on and checked in two 50-pound bags of letters as my travel luggage. This all happened the day before I left.”
By March 24, he was in Krakow. Along the way, one of his 50-pound bags had gone missing, but thankfully it caught up with him in time to make the last leg of the journey: a 167-mile trip to the border.
“The group United Sikhs runs a tent immediately across the border into Poland,” Astle said. “They are the group authorized to care for children as they come across. So, there is a large section with cots and playthings and warm food. When I told their leader about the first lady’s initiative and the letters I brought [they were] ecstatic.”
Astle was even able to hand-deliver some of the letters and personally witnessed the joy and tenderness they were received with. There were enough letters that the group set up a designated table with the cards on display, a sign inviting children to come choose a letter “from a friend.”
“The children either clutched them in their hands the whole time or they very carefully stored the picture in their plastic envelope where their crucial travel documents are kept,” Astle said.
And it’s a lovely example of an out-of-the-box way people can help during a difficult time, as long as they are willing.