Refugee Support – A Reflection


What is a Global Citizen?  A global citizen has the following three primary characteristics with respect to the world around them: awareness, responsibility, and participation (Schattle, 2004).

A year has passed since the invasion of Ukraine and the beginning of the subsequent humanitarian crisis. Urgency required us to act swiftly, and without hesitation this community answered thoughtfully and benevolently. The generosity offered by the members of our staff, their family and friends, and other parents and students facilitated an outpouring of support that  extended to both Ukrainians passing through our area on the way to safety and those who have ultimately settled here. Global citizenship and international mindedness may be words that we say at school and that we write in accreditation reports, but last winter and spring, we exemplified these ideals and, for this, I am grateful to know you and to have the privilege of working with you every day. There were many other efforts happening at school, but it’s important for me to disclose how the collected money was distributed. And, it’s  February. If you are anything like me, the winter blues have set in, and I find that the only thing that helps is to find a space to elevate some good news.

Last spring we raised 6330 Euros that helped support a number of efforts.  Furthermore, dozens of FIS families donated personal care products, clothing, and other in-kind items over many months that we were able to give to individuals in need. In addition, we supported the Erlangen Tafel, the Nuremberg Tafel, a hostel in Fuerth, and the Orthodox church in Nuremberg with supplies to have on hand for those people who were seeking assistance at those locations.

FIS students set a goal to create 100 Personal Care Bags and surpassed this by at least 30%, gathering enough supplies to make individual kits for children, women, and men.  Students from grades 9-12 as well as grades 5 & 6 met on a Saturday and organized all of this from collected supplies donated by the wider FIS community.

FIS Parents Saehee Chang and Jana Wehner were the liaisons with the community organizations and volunteered to transport items from the school to these locations. They generously packed their vans full of the donated goods and unloaded it all again.

At the beginning of the crisis before the government assistance was running smoothly, people simply needed their basic needs met. Our former colleague, Becky Oliver, opened her house and, at several different times, had upwards of ten people sleeping anywhere a flat surface was to be found.  She cooked for them, listened to their stories, and for the little time they spent together she simply found ways to lend support through kindness and listening.  Cash assistance was given to many of these families, all of whom had walked away from their lives and their livelihoods. Cash assistance for gasoline and food was given to the brave souls who had traveled to the Polish-Ukrainian border with whatever resources they could gather, and we sent them again on their way with groceries and other necessities.  Some families were not eligible for the shelter for various reasons, and hotel bills were paid for a few nights until they could come up with a new plan.  Masks were distributed to people waiting in line for the shelter so that they could use public transportation. Cash assistance was provided to a nurse at the shelter who was helping diabetics and others with chronic conditions get necessary supplies quickly.

Many individual families needed cash assistance right away upon arrival.  A Ukrainian woman who arrived in Erlangen seven months pregnant was able to purchase some necessities for her baby and was also provided with maternity clothes courtesy of FIS Staff. One family arrived and immediately their young son was hospitalized at the Kinderklinik with leukemia; we were able to contribute cash to them as well as clothing for their children. Cash assistance and gently used second goods were  provided to several other families who needed help with household expenses.

One of the transports that we assisted was spearheaded by two Spanish women who represented a small village outside of Barcelona. This village had united to support multiple families who left Ukraine and settled in Spain. We were able to support their work with cash, and in addition to this, Becky’s daughter spent a month last summer nannying for several of the families so that the parents could work.

Nearly a year into this crisis, our attention may have turned to other matters, but the reality remains grim for some members of our community. There are a few families from Ukraine living near me, and one of the men travels back regularly to bring supplies to his city where it is too dangerous for humanitarian organizations to visit. Our fund helped provide supplies to him as he travels from Erlangen back to Ukraine to help those who have not been able to leave.

Our fund still has a bit of cash left; if there are efforts that you feel we should support, please let me know. Furthermore, if anyone would like to see an exact breakdown of cash expenditures, please get in touch.

At the worst of times, it’s easy to lose sight of the benefits of living in an international community. The hassles become too great and the advantages, too slippery and unattainable.  In this case, the natural instinct of this community to show up and be present was appreciable, and that’s to be celebrated. There are many people to recognize and thank and I am very afraid to leave someone out, so please let me know if I have. Many thanks to all those who donated money, donated goods, provided housing, transported items, who organized fundraisers, and provided translation services.  I’ve had families and organizations reach out to me with their gratitude, and my response has always been that it’s been the FIS Staff and Community who have made any of these efforts possible, and for that, once again, I am grateful to know you and to work with you.

Shannon Aisen
HoD English

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