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Ukrainian pupils at Chavagnes International College Chavagnes International College

Help this French school take care of Ukrainian boys: LifeFunder
CHAVAGNES-EN-PAILLERS, France (LifeSiteNews) – In late February, news of the Russian invasion of Ukraine appeared on various media outlets, and the realities of war hit closer to home than many of us are accustomed to. Soon after, the plight of the growing number of refugees began to be reported. As a school, our thoughts naturally turned towards the children affected and, less than a week later, Chavagnes International College announced that it would open its doors to 20 teenage boys fleeing the conflict. The number was quickly revised in response to the overwhelming number of pleas for help that came through by phone, email, and social media.  

By March 12, the first few boys arrived here in the Vendee region of France. Some were able to come with their mothers and sisters while others travelled without their family. We celebrated St Patrick’s Day with 26 Ukrainian boys, plus more mothers and sisters, for whom we have been able to help find homes and work opportunities. To date, we have directly helped about 36 boys to get to safety, with the majority staying here at Chavagnes to see out their school year. 

READ: ‘Forget the politics, remember the children’: Catholic boarding school welcomes Ukrainian refugees 

Our students are accustomed to making friends with those from other countries, and they have been especially welcoming to their new ‘boarding brothers’ from Ukraine. The busyness of the school increased, and new football and basketball teams were added, as were extra tables and place-settings for meals. Our teachers have risen to the occasion, adding extra English, Physics, French, and Business classes to the timetable, as well as extra clubs and activities.  

Our new students have enjoyed an array of activities, including beach visits, swimming, rowing, cycling, astronomy, fishing, and farming. They have joined other locals in commemorating the heroism of François-Athanase de Charette and the Vendean counter-revolutionaries, joined our Scouts, and participated in local football tournaments. In return, our Ukrainian pupils have shared some of their holidays and festivals with us, including Ukrainian Easter celebrations, traditional cuisine, and Vyshyvanka Day, which celebrates Ukrainian folk dress. 

As well as learning how to participate in the Traditional Mass, with some boys able to serve the Mass, we were visited by Bishop Hlib Lonchyna, the Bishop Emeritus of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of the Holy Family of London, who celebrated the Divine Liturgy. Most of the boys will walk the Chartres Pilgrimage later this week, though others will remain to finish their Ukrainian school examinations.  

We pray constantly for peace in Ukraine, as well as for Syria and Lebanon, from where we have been able to welcome seven other boys. We also thank God for the many gifts of these young people, and for the support of others who have donated to help us to help these boys.  

Help us to rescue Ukrainian boys 

Patrick Long is the Deputy Headmaster of the Chavagnes International College. 

Help this French school take care of Ukrainian boys: LifeFunder

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