In many ways, Michael Woodley is a typical teen. He loves playing guitar, listening to music and hanging out with friends. But, he took an unusual step in April when Russia invaded Ukraine. Having just received a gift of $1,000 from his godmother, he committed $700 to Global Volunteers’ Ukraine Refugee Fund. What – and who – convinced him to make such a significant humanitarian statement? Read on for the story in Michael’s own words.
Michael, how did your tremendous support for Ukrainian refugee families come about?
I was reading the news, and I came across a story about the situation between Russia and Ukraine before the war started, and I was like, ‘Oh, this doesn’t seem good.’ My Dad is very much into history and politics and stuff. So, we talked about it for like, almost every day up until the war happened.
I read stories about disabled kids having to evacuate, and they’re just bombarding all these people who have to leave their homes. It’s horrible because they’re going sometimes days without food, and traveling long distances on foot.
I was just thinking of the effects, and how the help was going to come. I knew the facts, but I just didn’t know how people were helping until I talked to Pam, my mother’s friend. She told me about going to Poland with Global Volunteers to help Ukrainian refugees. And I started thinking about the commitment she made to help the people transition from that Ukraine situation to living in Poland. Because there’s so many refugees coming from Ukraine, and they need help getting established and being able to thrive there. Pam took a risk to help these families out. I thought about what I could do.
When did you decide to donate such a large portion of your gift to Global Volunteers?
When I think about all those people who actually need the money when I don’t really need it because I have everything I could ask for, and I didn’t feel like I was going to use it. And, and when I saw this situation and I met with Pam, I was like, ‘This is a good opportunity to help people who actually need it, and, and I think it was the right thing to do.’
Going to Poland to volunteer is a much bigger step than sitting in a house where you’re safe and comfortable and donating money. But actually going out of your comfortable environment and going to a place where it’s completely all new to you is way beyond what I did. I think it’s great what she’s doing because she’s actually doing it, because a lot of people can say, ‘ Yeah, I could do that.’ But then they don’t.
I hope that that the refugees can pick up and start thriving in a place that’s not as dangerous, and they can have successful and full and happy lives where they don’t have to worry about hunger and other situations that no one should go through.
You have a very mature perspective for a teenager. Where do you think you acquired that?
This is what we talk about in my family. When I was growing up, I was in Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, which is a lot of volunteering. Our family would help serve food and we went to food shelters and all that to help. So it’s a value in our family. I would like to imagine I can continue to be engaged in global kinds of issues where I feel I can have an impact. I hope that I’m still volunteering, donating, doing whatever I can to help as a become an adult.
I think, not only is my generation recognizing these problems, but all of these young people are coming with innovative ways to help solve these issues. I know it’s not everybody, but I’ve seen a lot of kids that do care, and they make brochures or whatever and help companies and organizations who help with these issues.
What do you do for fun?
Music is a fun hobby for me, just practicing guitar by myself for hours at a day.
But I would hope to do in the future anything that I can to help solve issues and yeah, I just want to be financially fine.
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