Prague, Czech Republic—The Anglo-American University club Students Against Violence raised 73,000 czk in a student-run fundraiser, more than tripling its goal of 20,000 czk to support Ukrainian civilians following Russia’s invasion of the country.
The AAU club’s collaboration with the NGO CARE’s emergency fund allowed Students Against Violence to ensure the proceeds went towards food, water, and hygiene kits for Ukrainian civilians, rather than the military. Goldberg says the club’s goal is to “make activism active,” placing focus on human rights, pairing well with CARE’s mission statement to “save lives, defeat poverty, and achieve social justice” around the world.
“We are very much an antiwar club, and so is CARE,” said Students Against Violence Vice President Antoinette Goldberg. “So, none of [the donations]went to the military.”
Students Against Violence, AAU, and CARE rallied together under an antiwar message, calling for peace, but they are far from the only ones to do so. Members of younger generations in cities around the world have protested in solidarity with Ukraine to demand an end to the violence.
Beyond AAU, various student and institution-led acts of condemnation occurred across US universities, notably Massachusetts Institute of Technology which ended its partnership with Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology. Additionally, students from Aberdeen University in Scotland led a protest to demonstrate their opposition to the invasion and encouraged participants to bring supplies to donate. According to AAU Lecturer Robert Warren, younger generations are often those who lead activism-based movements.
“It has always been the younger people in society that have higher ideals… when we’re young there’s less risk so you can freely have powerful ideals,” said Warren. “That’s why the young are often either used for or actually start revolutions themselves.”
Due to the urgency of the situation, the club planned the fundraiser within three days and set up a donation table on the second floor near the main entrance of AAU. Volunteers, both members and non-members of the club, sat at a table collecting funds throughout the week from the student body. Event planners from the club also rewarded those who participated with pins or stickers with the Ukrainian flag.
“I donated a couple of times… everyone was very appreciative and welcoming,” said AAU student Amelia Dunlap. “It was nice seeing the school come together even for something simple… I thought it was a good way that Friends Against Violence handled it.”
Among AAU students there was collective support for the cause which club president and founder Lauren Pray credits the fundraiser’s success to. Even some AAU students volunteered to sit at the donation table to help out when members of Students Against Violence were unable to.
“I think that was one of the reasons we reached such a goal,” said Lauren Pray. “Everyone was so united, and we also had [Digital Media Club] help us with some of the marketing, and we even contacted all the clubs and they promoted the fundraiser, so it’s really such a collective thing.”
Additionally, Students Against Violence also held a drive to collect physical donations, including sleeping bags and canned food, to be delivered to the Nigerian Embassy to support Ukrainian refugees of color.
“A lot of refugees are being turned away at different borders because they aren’t white Ukrainians,” said Goldberg. “The Nigerian Embassy specifically is being flooded with refugees who are being turned away because of the color of their skin, so we brought all of those donations to them.”
Refugees who originally came to Ukraine from Afghanistan, Yemen, and states in Africa have reported being discriminated against at borders. African refugees report being shoved to the back of the line at border controls by Ukrainian soldiers and denied hotel rooms in cities located near the Polish border.
Goldberg describes meeting a refugee family while at the embassy who thanked her and the 10 other Students Against Violence members. However, Goldberg says they have nothing to thank her for and only wishes she could do more.
“They were actually very surprised that a school would even really think of them because most of the people are donating to the Ukrainian Embassy,” said Pray. “So we went there and they were really appreciative and they started saying their stories of what happened to them and how they were treated and they were really just so thankful. Antoinette [Goldberg] just said it was such an emotional experience.”
As more refugees continue to flood into the Nigerian Embassy, Friends Against Violence will kick off another fundraiser to support refugees of color on April 11.