With more than 1.5 million Ukrainians fleeing to neighboring countries amid Russia’s invasion in what U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi calls the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II, a humanitarian relief mission of Yeshiva University students is preparing to do their part to help Ukrainian refugees where they need it most—on the ground.

The 27 New York-based undergraduate students are heading to Vienna to support the hundreds of Ukrainian refugees relocated there with plans to provide educational activities for children, sort donations, deliver supplies and help coordinate housing.

The trip, which will take place from March 13-20, is being led by Erica Brown, vice provost of values and leadership, and director of the Sacks-Herenstein Center at Yeshiva University, and Rabbi Josh Blass. The university chose Vienna as its destination since it’s close enough to the conflict zone to receive Ukrainian refugees but not close enough to endanger students, said Brown.

In spite of this busy time of year amid mid-terms, 124 students applied to join the trip within 24 hours of the application announcement.

For third-year student Yoni Mayer, an opportunity like this couldn’t have come soon enough. “I’ve been wanting to do something tangible to aid the Ukrainians, but anything in America felt too distant for me. This would be direct support to the refugees,” he said.

For Brown, her past experience with humanitarian missions, including ones to Cuba, Ethiopia, Moscow, Kyiv and Belarus, still impacts her life to this day, and she expects this trip will be no different.

“These trips have each changed me, and I hope that they will change every student who comes with us,” she said.


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