Pingree students Mackenzie Holian ’23 and Nora Pierce ’23 turned their interest in international affairs into action by creating a nonprofit organization to support those impacted by the war in Ukraine. Both joined Model UN (MUN) in ninth grade and credit the program for opening the door to a greater understanding of our interconnectedness with others. Nora shares, “Model UN lends this understanding that events taking place all the way around the world can have a huge impact on our lives and inspires empathy for people who are very different from us in some ways and similar in others.”
It is no surprise, then, that they were inspired to help upon learning more about the plight of Ukrainian refugees fleeing their homeland under Russian invasion. Mackenzie explains, “We initially wanted to incorporate Model UN into some of our work, but realized that with the ongoing Ukrainian refugee crisis, we needed to take action in support of the millions of displaced persons seeking safety and security sooner rather than later. That is why we ultimately decided to launch Students for Ukrainian Refugees.”
Pingree Model UN Advisor Casey Finch adds, “Mackenize and Nora have been dedicated members of MUN since entering Pingree as ninth graders. When the war in Ukraine broke out, both immediately began brainstorming ways our MUN could help. Ultimately, they chose a multi-pronged approach utilizing both Pingree and the broader community. This spring they will lead MUN in educating our community about the situation followed by supporting recovery and rebuilding efforts in the fall. I am so proud of the leadership that Mackenzie and Nora have provided Model UN as well as their commitment to taking that background to produce real-world change helping support those in Ukraine.”
Pingree alumna and current parent Christina Comparato ’85 connected the pair made with Skip Davis, an American expatriate who fled Ukraine in March with his Ukrainian wife and their two children, ages 17 and 7. After living in Ukraine for 18 years, Skip and his family left with only the belongings they could fit into backpacks. “Talking with Skip about the realities of what he was seeing and hearing in Ukraine, it seemed impossible for us to make any difference at all,” Nora recalled. “But after Mackenzie and I did our research and found some great local organizations that were able to get supplies over there, it seemed like a much more manageable task.”
Since its inception this spring, Students for Ukrainian Refugees has collected more than 500 pounds of hygiene, menstrual care, and first aid products for shipment to refugee welfare organizations working in Ukraine, Poland, and Romania. In addition to their collection drive, the students continued to look for other ways to make an impact, partnering with YMCAs, churches, and public libraries across the North Shore.
Mackenzie and Nora’s work has earned them notice from other members of the Pingree community, including Therese Melden P’09, ’11, former trustee and current member of the Head’s Leadership Council and Prep@Pingree Advisory Board. Therese is a founding member of Leading Ladies, a local advocacy group spearheaded by three former Pingree parents.
On the evening of Thursday, May 25, 2022, Leading Ladies is partnering with The Cabot in Beverly for Bella, An Immigrant’s Tale, a live show about a woman at the beginning of the twentieth century building a new life in America after escaping Russia’s pogroms. During this event, Mackenzie and Nora will be presenting to theatergoers about their efforts and raising funds in support of the Ukrainian Red Cross, World Central Kitchen, and the International Rescue Committee. Admission for Bella, An Immigrant’s Tale is by donation, with suggested levels of $25, $50, and $100.
Click here to learn more about Students for Ukrainian Refugees.