One Long Island high school student has partnered with Toys for Tots to bring hope and joy to Ukrainian refugee children with each gift. According to ABC 7, Jericho High School student Jessica Vartanov, whose father and mother’s grandparents emigrated from Georgia in the former Soviet Union, has a special place in her heart for the children whose lives have been uprooted since Russia’s latest invasion. Vartanov, with U.S. Marines and Toys for Tots, is traveling to the border of Ukraine and Poland to personally deliver the gifts to children.
Vartanov shared that her heart breaks for the children who now have to grow up surrounded by “violence and chaos,” adding that she hopes delivering these gifts will bring them joy and lift their spirits. Vartanov knows that upon receiving a gift, the message that it brings of love, hope, and kindness is a powerful way to remind children that they are thought of and cared for. Retired Major Chuck Kilbride of Toys for Tots shared, “we always say, a new and unwrapped toy is a symbol of hope and these people in Ukraine need hope.”
Vartanov’s efforts to help Ukrainian refugees does not end at the border. She also has been teaching English to Ukrainian refugee children, and has helped about fifty children so far. Vartanov is fluent in Russian, which is similar to Ukrainian, and Vartanov explained that what the children need most of all is someone to listen to them and understand them, and she is able to do that.
As war continues to impact the lives of Ukrianians both in and outside of Ukraine, it is important that they remember they have not been forgotten with the passage of time. By taking action and reaching out to those who could help her with her mission, Vartanov has become a role model for people who want to help others. Vartanov’s humanitarian trip is one that she will learn much from while also delivering the special gift of light in the darkness to children and families who are among those who need to find hope the most.