In August I visited a Ukrainian school in a village not far from the Russian border. The village had been occupied by Russian soldiers. I want to tell you about Bohdana, a 15-year-old Ukrainian girl I met there.
Bohdana had participated in a program created by Spirit of America called UActive. UActive teaches Ukrainian high school students entrepreneurial skills so they can be leaders in rebuilding their communities. Student teams develop project ideas and compete for micro-grants. The winners get funds to implement their ideas and help their communities. 99% of what we have done in Ukraine this year has been working hand-in-hand with US troops to provide assistance to Ukrainian soldiers to help Ukraine win. UActive is the other 1%.
I met the UActive students in a classroom the Russians used for interrogations. The students had transformed it into the school’s STEM classroom. It was cheerful and bright with Keith Haring-style drawings on the walls.
Some of the kids talked about how Russian snipers took aim at them when they ventured outside their homes during the occupation. Bohdana was fortunate. She had survived the Russian occupation and, thus far, she had survived the war. She was shy – almost the last student to speak. But when she started talking she lit up. Her team’s project was to purchase a 3D printer to make drone parts to help Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines.
Bohdana said Spirit of America had inspired her. I asked her why. She explained that UActive showed her that an ordinary girl like her from a small village in Ukraine could do something important to help her country at a time of its greatest need. She spoke with such strength, commitment, and pride. It was a powerful, emotional moment I will never forget. By doing her part, Bohdana had power and agency. And, it changed her life.
At Spirit of America we work hard to quantify impact and return on investment. But the most important things about our work can’t be measured. Ultimately, our work is about the kind of world we want our children to live in. It’s about what America stands for: preserving the promise of a free and better life.
With Russia, Iran, China, Hamas, and others trying to impose a dark view of human liberty and dignity, the promise of a free and better life is at grave risk. The only way we can meet these challenges is by working together — with American troops and diplomats, partners like Ukrainian soldiers, young people like Bohdana, and supporters like you. None of us can do it alone. United we can.
Please consider making a year-end gift to Spirit of America. We can’t do this work without you.
Founder and CEO