By Simona Yaroslavsky
Special to the Reporter
Mercer Island High School juniors Simona Yaroslavsky and Matthew Smith volunteered by helping Ukrainian refugees at the Mexico-United States border near San Diego on April 8-11.
Here’s Yaroslavsky’s report on their experience:
The first day of volunteering was in San Diego, and we started the day by going to McDonald’s and buying $1,000 worth of meals for kids arriving from the refugee camp in Mexico.
The following two days were at the refugee camp stationed in Mexico. We bought activities for kids — coloring sets, toys and games — and brought it to Tijuana side.
The conditions were vastly different, and a lot more dangerous in Mexico. There were around 3,000 people: mainly women, children and the elderly, and many people arrived with nothing but the clothing on their backs. To address the need for lighter clothing amidst the hot Tijuana weather, we cut up donated jeans/long pants to create makeshift shorts to prevent overheating.
Matthew and I led a number of kids’ activities and monitored the kids’ section of the camp. I acted as a translator between several English speaking volunteers and the kids, and made sure that both the volunteers and refugees were understood.
There is no one need of the Ukrainian refugees that can be addressed. Items in shortage and surplus are changing daily, depending on the demographic of people arriving.