Continuing a culture of kindness. One student’s journey to help in Ukraine

Helping others in need is all in a day’s work – and her DNA – for one University of Northampton (UON) student who’s heading off on a goodwill mission to Ukraine.

Maddison-Vale Ellson is a Childhood and Youth student, and with her inaugural year under her belt, she is packed and ready to deliver goodwill packages to people in war-torn Ukraine.

For the past few weeks, Maddison has been busy collecting donations for the people of Truskavets – a town near the city of Lviv – working with the charity Help for Ukraine BAMK.

She explains what she has been up to: “It’s always innocent people and their children who get caught up in horrible situations like what is happening in Ukraine. After seeing what is happening, I felt hopeless just watching it on a screen, and after working with children closely I knew the impact it would be having so decided I needed to do something to help.

“So, I started a simple shoebox collection for an orphanage in Truskavets – toys, things for colouring in, or sweets – just little things that I would take out there. How little did I know then how big this would become!

“I contacted a few local charities and retailers and very soon had more help than I thought possible. I soon had clothes for the babies and children, tinned food, plus over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies. We now have a total of 200 shoeboxes and around 50 bin liner bags full of clothes. I’m still amazed by this, so thank you to everyone who has added to and supported this total.”

Now with the generous haul of essentials and extras ready to go, Maddison-Vale only needs to sort the final details before heading off: “I have a large transit van – and driver – on stand-by to leave during the next week. With the situation in Ukraine constantly changing, we’ll be advised when the best opportunity to depart is.

“Obviously there is risk here. Nothing is guaranteed no matter how well you plan, but I’m fully aware of what I could be going into and have organised the trip so I won’t be on my own. I have had multiple conversations with the charity and my Mum and Dad, but they know I am determined to do this.

“Doing something like this is also something that runs in the family. I come from a very close-knit family of very caring people. We put other people before ourselves and my Mum did something similar years ago for a friend’s charity in Romania, going out there twice with shoebox donations. I look up to my Mum, she means so much to me, and I know she and my Dad understand why I need to do this and are proud of me.”

After the donation drop, Maddison-Vale will be busy for the two-three weeks she hopes to remain in Ukraine, with support work that complements what she has been learning in class. She adds: “When the donations have all been distributed, I’ll be acting as ‘responsible adult’ for the babies, children and young people at the orphanage, making sure they have what they need, comforting them, playing games, and cooking meals after collecting the food supply each day. I’ve made it my goal to make them smile at least once a day.

“I know a bit about the area of child development from my course and the placements I have had, such as relationships, abandonment, distressed children and calming techniques, and working with people who have special educational needs. I can’t possibly know what it’s like to be one of these children who has survived being in a war situation, but I feel I’ll learn a lot from them myself. I think I’ll come back as a different person, for sure.”

You can follow Maddison-Vale’s trip on her TikTok profile @maddison.valee

See Help Ukraine’s BAMK Facebook page for more.

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