EMMA LUCAS, CLARISSA Kirby and Naria Audet (left to right) were among fourth-graders at Orwell who pursued the idea of collecting maple candies for Ukrainian children who needed a smile on their faces to difficulties and troubles. Photo courtesy Jenna Laslocky
ORWELL — Schoolchildren at Orwell hope Vermont’s sweetest export will bring sunshine into the lives of Ukrainian children who are facing some of the darkest times imaginable.
What started as a goodwill gesture concocted by youngsters in Jenna Laslocky’s 4th grade class at Orwell Village School has blossomed into a multi-school effort within the Slate Unified School District. Valley (SVUSD) to fly maple candy to their counterparts in Ukraine, a nation in turmoil since it was overrun by Russian forces on February 24.
“I think we’re just sending candy to put some love and smiles on some kids’ faces because I don’t think they’ve seen anything happy in a while,” Beck Saville said. , Orwell’s 4th grade student. , who, along with classmate Clarissa Kirby, led the maple candy drive.
The Russian invasion and constant bombardment of Ukraine has indeed reverberated all the way to Orwell, where young students attempt to gain a growing sense of the latest geopolitical conflict that is driving wounded men, women and children and dead.
Laslocky students are happy to be cocooned in a quaint town in Vermont’s Champlain Valley, but they are heartbroken to see the images of Ukrainian refugees leaving their homeland, while the less fortunate are left to a fate. uncertain.
But what can you do against a war across the ocean when you’re 9 or 10 with a piggy bank half full?
You are doing something heartfelt and symbolic, something that might – for at least a brief moment – make someone smile whose world is changing every moment.
This lesson in symbolism began shortly after Russia launched its incursion into Ukraine on February 24. Clarissa, Beck and a few of their classmates began to show solidarity by covering Ms. Laslocky’s door with Ukrainian flags.
Providing humanitarian aid seemed like a difficult task for her class, but Laslocky contacted a friend who teaches in Prague – the capital of the Czech Republic in Eastern Europe – and asked her how Orwell students could at least give some joy to their Ukrainian counterparts.
“She suggested candy,” Laslocky recalled.
“Who doesn’t like candy?”
Coincidentally, it was time for the start of sugaring-off season and the Laslocky students had just finished reading a book by Kate DiCamillo called “The Beatrice Prophecy,” which refers to maple candies.
So it was decided: the class would collect as many maple candies as possible to ship to Ukraine.
They got off to a good start, as Beck’s family has a friend, Bob LaDuc, who is a local sugar bowler. LaDuc has become a trusted source for many maple treats in Ukrainian care packages.
Students would buy maple candies themselves, put them on their parents’ shopping list, and collect as much maple syrup as they could find. The friendly folks at Tradewinds Farm on Route 74 in Shoreham, along with the Warner family in Middlebury, have agreed to turn the syrup into candy.
DiCamillo was happy to learn that her book had inspired good deeds in children.
“She sent us a nice note to put in the packages, and we had (her message) translated by a Ukrainian student from Middlebury College,” Laslocky said. “So we got this little message of love and support from us, with the eloquence of a famous author.”
The children carefully wrap the sweets in blue and yellow paper — to represent the Ukrainian flag. Their efforts have so far produced two large packs of maple candy – some soft, some hard, as well as taffy.
The Laslocky students were thrilled to post the first package from the Orwell Post Office last Friday. From Orwell, he will arrive at an international school in Warsaw, Poland, where representatives have agreed to take him to the border.
“We appreciate people who can get the candy across the border,” Laslocky said. “We hope that with a little more publicity we can find more ways to bring it in (to Ukraine), because we realize that sweets are not really the priority at the moment. We try to respect the fact that they need food, shelter and medicine.
Several more parcels will follow to keep the amber-hued goodwill gifts flowing. The maple candy effort for Ukrainian children has expanded to 3rd and 4th grade classrooms in the SVUSD towns of Castleton, Fair Haven and Benson, sweetening the payload of heartfelt candy.
And that’s another lesson learned by Orwell’s students: that a few people can make a big difference.
“It basically shows what we do — the power of one or two people pitching the maple candy idea,” Clarissa said.
Although it will be Ukrainian children who will receive the sweets, Laslocky said his students also reap great rewards.
“He’s trying to turn something that’s potentially scary into something a little less scary, by doing something positive, and that’s also a lesson in action,” she said. “When you see something difficult, you can do something positive, no matter how old you are. It’s about teaching compassion and taking action rather than just watching. And I learn from this class all days.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]