Jason Zhao feels it’s his moral duty and imperative to reach out and help others in their time of need.
The Mercer Island High School senior and president of the History and Politics Club has helped form a three-pronged collective along with the school’s Amnesty International and Philosophy clubs to raise funds to support Ukrainian refugees who are suffering after Russian forces invaded their homeland.
Students for Ukraine has launched a GoFundMe page and Ukraine — Yearning To Breathe Free website to collect funds and provide news updates on the Ukraine situation. With help from the school’s National Honor Society, the students have also been blanketing the Island by visiting residents’ homes on their Knock Out War campaign to ask for donations. Also in the works is an All-Island Yard Sale to support the cause.
“We just wanted to basically do our part to ensure that Ukraine refugees were safe, housed and fed,” said Zhao, adding that none of their efforts would be possible if people didn’t open their wallets and hearts.
Zhao further explained what drove him to lend a hand: “We have the capability, we have the resources — why not?”
The collective has communicated with international organizations like the International Rescue Committee and Doctors Without Borders, along with volunteer support groups in Ukraine and Poland, and plans to forward funds to those organizations to purchase medical supplies, food and other necessities. Funds will also aid efforts for Ukrainian refugees’ crossing at the Mexico/United States border.
Zhao and his group began their relief efforts by selling Ukraine pins that feature blue-and-yellow ribbons at school. He said it was inspiring to see some students donate between $5-$20 for pins.
On the yard sale front, collections will be accepted from 3:30-7:30 p.m. beginning April 21 and 23 at the Stroum Jewish Community Center (SJCC) and every Thursday and Saturday onward through the first week of May. They are still coordinating with the SJCC to firm up a date for the sale. The SJCC is located at 3801 E. Mercer Way.
While door-knocking, Zhao said residents have given some donations and they visited with one woman who constructed a backyard shrine with flowers and portraits to honor the Ukrainian victims of the war.
“We think that the Island is very engaged with what we’re doing and with our cause in general. I think we can continue to achieve great results as long as people continue to put their faith in us,” Zhao said.