Teacher volunteers for Ukraine distrubutions


Meredith Hedrick (middle left) helps refugees at the distribution center alongside the volunteers she met through the World Central Kitchen

Meredith Hedrick traveled to Poland on May 6th for 10 days to support the humanitarian efforts at the Polish and Ukrainian border with the World Central Kitchen.

Hedrick is an English Second Language Department Chair and Instructional Coach at AHS. She volunteered with WCK in the town of Przemysl near the Medyka border crossing where she was assigned to the food distributions at the border crossing sites and reception centers. Her shift lasted from 9 a.m until 8 p.m for seven days. Hedrick held a zoom call with all the information and images she gathered from her trip as well and shared her experience.

“I worked for World Central Kitchen with volunteers from all around the world including from Poland and Ukraine,” said Hedrick

Hedrick shared about the center plaza where everything was provided for the refugees that were coming in from inside the border for support.

“It was the main refugee center, it was an old building called Tesco. Outside there was food, there was an animal tent to help the animals, there was a circus tent so kids could play, the showers were outside they had 48 showers and restrooms,” Hedrick said,

Inside there was a medical tent with more food, beds and pots. There were country desks where they could learn the process for immigrating to their country.

“I did see tears, I saw stress but most people were very kind, nice and polite. They knew they were in with thousands of people in the same situation as them,’ Hedrick said.

Hedrick felt like it was her moral responsibility to help because if she was in the same situation, she would want someone to do the same for her. When she first arrived, the volunteers welcomed her with open hands.

“I brought my own airline ticket, I had to pay for my hotel and for any expenses but I feel like I gained so much more from the experience that it was worth it with the people that I met not only with the refugees but with the volunteers from around the world. There’s many people just like me who are making even more sacrifices to help,” Hedrick said.

Hedrick began planning activities to do virtually with Ukrainians even if the connection was half across the world.

“I was thinking about having an open chat room like a tutor session. Many Ukrainians wish that they had studied English a little bit more because now they understand why they might need it when they are moving,” Hedrick said.
Not everyone spoke Russian but luckily Hederick learned to speak Russian 20 years ago and communicated through Google Translate.

“It was very touching. My friends and I and all Ukrainians were sharing their personal stories on leaving the country and they showed us videos of what it was like there. One was telling us about how all her windows got blown down. Another woman told us she looked out the window and a missile went by,” Hedrick said.

While Hederick was at the camp she met a family, a mom and her 27 year old daughter with their dog and they were far East of Ukraine where the Russians were and they decided they had to get out.

“They showed me a video of their journey on the bus. They had to sit on the floor for 8 hours because it was full and they had to get past the Russians. They said every time they would hold their breath when they were nervous. After 8 hours it took 17 hours to get to Poland. They were tired, hungry and thirsty and had to leave their family,” Hedrick said.
It was a life or death situation because they were not ensured that they would make it out alive. The Russians had blocked the roads by shooting

“There was one man who was talking to me and he was a refugee himself then there were 4 or 5 refugees who were also helping me. Some are getting paid by World Central Kitchen so WCK is giving them a salary,” Hedrick said.

Most refugees came to the center if they wanted to spend a night or a couple of nights to rest and think about what they wanted to do next.

“There were disable people, I was concerned about the disabled people. There were injuries before the war and some people who came to Poland to go to the hospital. There were mothers with children, singles and a lot of people with different circumstances,” Hedrick said.

Hederick had the resources to travel and to help these refugees in Ukraine and got easily attached to them.

“We’ve been texting back and forth using Facebook messenger and Whatsapp and I plan on being in touch. I told the Ukrainians that once the war was finished I hope to be their first guest beside their family,” Hedrick said.

Hederick’s husband and his friend are planning to go to Poland in the summer to help and support the refugees. She’s going to continue to collect donations so she could support people in that way.

“I thought about it for a long time and then I decided I had to do it and then I had 2 weeks’ notice,” Hederick said.
Watching the crisis from afar, it was hard for Hedrick as she kept asking herself what she could do to help and she finally made the decision that volunteering was the right thing to do.

“WCK made 6,000 meals a day. 2 hot meals and breakfast, breakfast was banana bread, Ukrainian cake, fruit or sandwiches, tea and coffee. The hot lunch had a starch, a fruit, a vegetable and a meat with soup. People could eat as much as they want,” Hedrick said.

Hedrick was not given any payment for her volunteer work but she was happy to have been able to help the refugees.
For information about where and how to volunteer to help, World Central Kitchen is providing food all over the Ukraine and the borders.

Their website is WCK.org and more information is provided on how to volunteer.
Medyka is the border crossing where Hedrick was stationed. The location continues to be busy with the heavy traffic of people coming in and out. Volunteers come from all over the world. All volunteers say that it is an incredible experience to be a part of the effort.

“It’s just not fair geographically where they are that they have to suffer at the decisions of other countries than theirs,” Hedrick said.

Hedrick flew into Warsaw, Poland and then took a 6 hour train to Przemysl where she stayed for 8 nights before working home via Krakow, Poland. She returned back to AHS on May 18th.
Hedrick hopes that what they produce here at AHS ensures students that they can be changemakers.