Canada and the Ukraine may be thousands of kilometres apart, but a local group with a special gift for the Canadian prime minister are trying to change that.
After visiting the Ukraine and starting up a school pen pal program, Warren Kreway and Dr. Leighton Nischuk have framed a handmade art piece made by the students from across the world.
The piece, which in a visual form demonstrates the Ukrainian students willingness to connect with Canada, will be presented to Prime Minister Stephen Harper as an act of diplomacy between the two countries.
The genesis of the project began over a year ago when Kreway accompanied Nischuk on a mission trip with Medical Mercy Canada to the Ukraine last May.
Kreway discovered his heritage and developed a connection with the children in the developing country. “We started working with the kids in the school and really connected,” said Kreway. “We started researching to see what their needs were. Multiple needs were evident like sports equipment and other things that would help them.”
Kreway and Nischuk eventually connected with a teacher and a group of students in Liviv, Ukraine, leading to the exchange of both nations’ flags and later a pen pal program, involving students from Ecole J.S. McCormick, Ecole Lacombe Upper Elementary School and Lacombe Composite High School.
To start the pen pal program, Kreway visited the schools and did a presentation about his trip, encouraging the students to participate in the across the globe project.
“The excitement in their eyes was just phenomenal,” he said. “Now they have a legacy to connect with the kids over there.”
Nischuk then returned to Ukraine this past May with a flag, pins, soccer uniforms plus all of the letters from the students in Lacombe to give to the Ukrainian students.
On this last trip, returning just a few weeks ago, Nischuk brought back a special gift from the students in Liviv — a handmade poster.
“I was a little bit worried about bringing it back to Canada because I didn’t have a good way to transport it,” said Nischuk.
He carefully placed the poster in his suitcase and hoped it would travel well. Luckily the artwork survived and Nischuk showed the gift to Kreway once he arrived home.
“When we noticed it was to be presented to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, we thought well we can’t just keep that in Lacombe, it has to go further,” explained Kreway.
From there, Kreway contacted local MP Blaine Calkins about the piece and the wheels were in motion for the project to reach a national level.
The poster then was brought to Shelley Holben, of The Gallery on Main framing shop, to custom frame the unique piece.
Kreway is passionate about the project and assisting those in the county of his heritage. “We need to help these people and what a better way to do it than through the children,” he said. “They are our future. They are going to be our next leaders.
“It has taken off in immense proportions. It has connected two worlds through the children.”
Nischuk agrees. “It’s going to grow.”
Next, the framed piece, along with the two signed Ukrainian flags and copies of the letters from the Liviv students will be presented to Harper at the Calgary Stampede or at another opportunity.