Local elementary school students raise money for Ukraine


Viktoria and Jozef Berisha, along with Ian and Oliver Potter, organized a bake sale to raise money for Ukrainians. (Image courtesy of Josephine Berisha)

Viktoria Berisha wanted to do something. The Meadow Pond Elementary School 5th grader had been seeing reports of what was happening in Ukraine and was determined to find a way to help. She and her friend Ian Potter, a fellow student at Meadow Pond, began brainstorming.

Viktoria and Ian came up with the idea to hold a bake sale. Viktoria had seen her mom organize many bake sales over the years for various local initiatives and knew it was a fairly simple and effective way to raise money.

On Saturday, Viktoria and her younger brother Jozef (4th grade), along with Ian and his younger brother Oliver (Kindergarten), set up a table outside of Books on the Common in Ridgefield, selling homemade treats to friends and community members to raise money for Ukrainians. In just a few hours, the children raised over $600.

"The feedback we were getting from the community was so positive," said Josephine Berisha, Viktoria and Jozef’s mother, adding that many of the children's friends and classmates stopped by to donate. Employees from Books on the Common also popped out of the store to contribute. "It's just great to see that when something positive is happening how many people want to be a part of it," Berisha said.

Berisha said that the kids are hoping that they money they raised can be sent to a Ukrainian children's hospital.  "They saw that one of the children’s hospitals in Ukraine was bombed. I think that’s what hit them the hardest; that this can happen to someone in need.”

Berisha is a first generation American, born to parents who immigrated to the United States from Kosovo in the 1970’s. Berisha said she and her husband, whose family also hails from Kosovo, have always imparted to their children why they feel so grateful to live in the United States.

For Berisha, seeing what’s happening now brings back memories of 1999, when NATO launched air strikes to quash violence and repression in Kosovo. “You watch the news now and memories come flooding back. Kosovo was very fortunate that NATO came in; I don’t know where we would have been without help from the West,” Berisha said.

The funds raised by the students will be donated to SUMA Federal Credit Union, a Yonkers-based bank founded by Ukrainian immigrants after World War II. SUMA’s website lists a number of organizations the bank is donating to to support the Ukrainian people.

“I think it’s important for kids to realize that this is happening,” Berisha said. “We have to be aware; we can’t just look the other way because that’s inhumane.”

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