Students in the Global Action Club at Yarmouth High School volunteer at Partners for World Health in Portland. The club has raised about $10,000 for relief efforts for victims of the war in Ukraine. Contributed / David Pearl

Local schools have raised tens of thousands of dollars for victims of the war in Ukraine, a cause especially close to the heart of one Cumberland student.

A read-a-thon conducted by Greely Middle School students that raised $45,000 was the brainchild of fourth grade student Mina Matyjaszewski, whose Polish grandmother left her home in Pittsburgh to help Ukrainian refugees near the Polish border.

Mina Matyjaszewski was inspired to hold a fundraiser at her school by her grandmother, Malgosia Matyjaszewski, who helped Ukrainians at the Polish border. Contributed / Renee Bogart

Her grandmother, Malgosia Matyjaszewski, helped bring food, water, bedding and toys to children and families in need as a result of the Russian invasion. Mina was inspired by her grandmother and wanted to help as well.

“I was really proud of the class and I didn’t even know what to say. I’m just really happy,” Mina told The Forecaster.

The fourth and fifth grade Cumberland and North Yarmouth students solicited sponsors for the read-a-thon, and, in just one week, participants read a total of 52,464 minutes to raise the money pledged. The funds will benefit UNICEF’s Ukrainian Refugee Crisis work.

Mina chose UNICEF as the beneficiary because she and a friend ran a lemonade stand before to benefit the organization and she trusts its administrators to make the best use of the funds, she said.


According to its website, “UNICEF is working with partners (in Ukraine) to reach vulnerable children and families with essential services – including health, education, protection, water and sanitation – as well as life-saving supplies.”

Mina’s mother, Renee Bogart, said the read-a-thon was the perfect fundraiser for the students to pursue because it also fits their curriculum.

“I think it’s just amazing, this kind of selflessness and empathy at that age is amazing to see,” Bogart said. “And not just for (Mina), but for her teacher, her classmates; it just blew us away.”

Mina said when she told her grandmother over Facetime about the money her classmates raised “she was smiling and laughing a lot” and was clearly proud of her granddaughter.

Yarmouth High School students Josephine Nicholas, left, Zhi Cowles and Olivia May, volunteer at Partners for World Health in Portland. Contributed / David Pearl

“As educators, we try to help the students recognize who the helpers were in difficult times,” said Mina’s teacher Yasmin Azel. “With the Ukrainian war on the students’ minds, it presented an opportunity for them to see how they could be helpers. I don’t think any of us imagined it would be such an immense success.”

In Yarmouth, students in the high school’s Global Action Club raised about $10,000 with a benefit concert by Russian opera singer Pavel Sulyandziga, who also sang at a First Parish Congregational Church benefit that brought in about $4,600. The money was donated to Partners for World Health, a Portland-based nonprofit that brings medical supplies and equipment to individuals, communities and health care facilities in need.

“It was really touching, given that our goal was $2,000, so when we heard back about how much was raised, I couldn’t even believe it,” club leader Olivia May said. “It really redeemed our efforts. It reassured us that there were a lot of people here who want to help the people of Ukraine.”

The students also set up a Go Fund Me page that so far has raised about $3,500, and held a “Petals for Peace” fundraiser at the high school that raised over $500. Students could buy a “petal” for $2 to create a mural of sunflowers, Ukraine’s national flower, in the school.

“A lot of students were happy to spend much more than $2 on a petal and our teachers were really generous too,” May said.

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