How the CIEE Community Is Supporting the Ukrainian People

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The CIEE community around the world has been offering support for the Ukrainian people – from Ukrainian high school students who were in the U.S. at the time of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, to families displaced by Russian bombing.

Supporting Ukrainian High School Exchange Students and Alumni in the United States

At the time of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, CIEE was supporting 24 Ukrainian high school students who were in the U.S. as part of the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) Program. FLEX is a competitive, merit-based scholarship program funded by the U.S. Department of State with the goal of ensure long-lasting peace and mutual understanding between the U.S. and the countries of Eurasia.

Of the 24 students, three have already been reunited with their natural families. Fourteen will be staying in the U.S. for another year and CIEE will continue to support them on their extended program. An additional three students remain in country currently, under the support of CIEE, but plan to be reunited with their families in the coming weeks. CIEE has been in close contact with each of these exchange visitors, supporting them during these difficult times.

­­­The outpouring of support from our host family and school networks has been overwhelming.

  • A Ukrainian student living with a host family in Indiana, Kseniia, was awarded a $60,000 scholarship to attend the Culver Academy in Culver, Indiana so that she could remain in the U.S. for another year and attend their summer camp.
  • A Ukrainian student, Denys, who is from Odessa and living with a host family in West Virginia, received a call from the office of Senator Joe Manchin, offering support.
  • Another CIEE student from Ukraine, also name Denys, who is living with a host family in Texas, started a t-shirt fundraiser to support Ukraine. His host community rallied behind endeavor.

CIEE has also accepted two new participants from Ukraine, who will arrive this summer, bringing our total anticipated in country for the coming school year to nine.

Additionally, the Ambassadors Fund for Summer Work Travel Scholarship is funded by the U.S. Department of State and implemented by CIEE (among others), with the goal of enhancing mutual understanding and supporting public diplomacy efforts between the United States and young people from other countries. 2022 funding included an opportunity for ten students from Ukraine to participate. This funding has been extended by the State Department to allow for future participation by Ukrainians and CIEE will run the program in Ukraine as soon as possible.

Plus, a CIEE alum from Ukraine, Olesya, returned to visit her former host family in Ohio during her Christmas break. She was in the U.S. when the war broke out and she ended up staying with the family for several months, as they were happy to be reunited and keep her safe.

Opening Homes and Hearts to Refugees in the Czech Republic

CIEE IT System Administrator Franky Zak and his family have opened their homes for two moms and their kids. Váňa (a 12-year-old boy) and Marushka (his mom) are from Zakarpattia. Máša (a 12-year-old girl) and Anastasia (her mom) are from Zaporozhye (site of the biggest European nuclear power plan that is now unfortunately under Russian hands).

CIEE Prague Academic Director Petra Key and her family are hosting a mother, her 13-year-old son Maksym, and two dachshunds, Mona and Lisa, who, she says, have all become part of her family. “Svitlana, the mother, joined me and our students for an extra-curricular activity about two weeks after their arrival in Prague,” said Petra. “It was a great opportunity for her to shift her mind from the terrible experience of desperately trying to get her son out of a shelled country to safety. Our students were very empathetic, supportive, and grateful for the opportunity to meet her.”

One of CIEE Prague’s Spring 2022 students, Maya Sobchuk, is from Ukraine, and her grandmother and great-aunt fled Ukraine in the middle of March. They were put up by Lucie Gomezova, a former CIEE staff at the time – and now CIEE staff member again. The two elderly ladies stayed with her for about three months. Lucie is now hosting another Ukrainian lady, from Kharkiv, who decided to come to the Czech Republic to work and help support the territorial defense with her income. All her family is staying in the city, engaging in volunteer activities, and helping defend their country.

Marta Čermánková, CIEE Prague Housing Manager, has put up and is supporting a Ukrainian family with two little kids. She has been helping them settle in the Czech culture, including finding a pre-school and school for them to attend.

Supporting Ukrainian Students and Other Refugees in Madrid

Madrid has welcomed more than 30,000 Ukrainian refugees since March. Just before Summer Session 1, onsite staff were contacted to see if CIEE could help connect three students from Ukraine with CIEE students for a cultural exchange. The Ukrainian college-age students, who speak English but no Spanish, are living with host families organized by the Spanish government. They were sitting in their homestays with limited social contact. CIEE was glad to help. The three female Ukrainian students were invited to audit and sit in the Contemporary Spain class in Madrid Summer Session 1. And in Madrid Summer Session 2, two female Ukrainian student refugees are auditing the Art and Activism class.

CIEE Madrid Academic Program Assistant Patricio Taranenkno is Ukrainian and a recent graduate from ESADE Business School who could not return home to Kyiv. He is now employed full-time at CIEE Madrid, organizing co-curricular class activities and internship placements.

Volunteering and More

Students and staff across Europe are donating their time and money to help Ukrainian refugees. For example, CIEE Prague students volunteered looking after Ukrainian refugee children while their moms learned Czech and assembling bullet-proof vests for Ukrainian soldiers. Alayna Brown, Program Manager in Seville, used her CIEE Day of Service (plus one vacation day) to work with an NGO in Tomares, preparing and arranging donation packages of food and other products for humanitarian campaigns in Ukraine.

In the face of global conflict, CIEE’s mission to nurture positive, trusting person-to-person relationships across cultures has never been more important. Together, we will keep advancing peace.

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