By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – The donations covered several tables inside Room 312 on the third floor of the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s student union.
There were stacks of bath towels and washcloths, piles of soap, toothbrushes and nail clippers and boxes filled with combs, Kleenex and Band-Aids.
“It’s incredible,” said Tanner Butler, a UNK junior from Broken Bow. “Most of us thought we were going to get a good number of items, but not this number.”
Haley Mazour, a UNK senior from Hastings, had a similar reaction Thursday evening as around 30 students and faculty members gathered to assemble hygiene kits for people displaced by the ongoing war in Ukraine.
“I’m awestruck,” she said. “I’m very overwhelmed by the amount of things that are here today. I’m really proud of UNK and really proud of Kearney in this moment.”
UNK and Kearney should be equally proud of Mazour and Butler. The political science majors spearheaded the student-led project that will benefit more than 150 refugees.
Mazour and Butler serve as president and vice president of the Locke and Key Society, a nonpartisan campus club for students interested in politics and public affairs. That organization worked with other student groups and community partners to collect items for the hygiene kits, which will be delivered by Orphan Grain Train, a Norfolk-based nonprofit that sends clothing, food, medical supplies and other aid to people in need.
A total of 163 care packages were created, and additional items not included in the kits will also be donated.
This seemingly small act can have a big impact.
“Especially in a time when we’re kind of relegated to social media activism, it feels really good to get together with people, doing something with your hands that you know is going to make a real, physical difference in the world,” Mazour said. “It might not be huge and it’s not going to turn the tides of the war, but it is going to make a difference and it is going to make somebody’s life that’s just been destroyed and upended a little bit easier.”
More than 11 million people have fled their homes in Ukraine since Russian forces invaded the country two months ago, according to the United Nations. This includes around 5 million residents who left the country and another 6.5 million who are internally displaced. It’s Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II.
“There’s purposeful killing of civilians, so people have to get out of there, and we need to do whatever we can to help those people,” Butler said. “With the number of donations we received, I think that shows people are willing to act, they truly care about this situation, and they understand the horrors.”
Although they’re thousands of miles away, members of the Locke and Key Society will continue to do their part to shine a light on this humanitarian crisis.
“The fact that a huge group of people got together in central Nebraska to help people all the way across the world – out of the kindness of their own hearts, just because it’s the right thing to do – I think that’s a really beautiful thing,” Mazour said.