Press Release

Delegation of American Educators Travel to Poland on Humanitarian Trip

Group will Teach English at a Summer Camp Supporting Ukrainian Refugees

For Release: 

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Contact:

Alexis Lopez
305-878-9836
alopez@aft.org

WASHINGTON—In the coming days, a delegation of 15 educators from across the country representing 11 affiliates of the American Federation of Teachers will embark on a two-week journey to Poland where they will provide on-the-ground educational support to Ukrainian and Polish students (ages 12-15) affected by the traumas of war. The educators will be teaching English at a summer camp organized by the Kosciuszko Foundation, NATAN Worldwide Disaster Relief and the Folkowisko Foundation. The camp is focused on experiential, project-based outdoor activities featuring informal, conversational English language immersion, with programs designed to provide important instructional support, consistency and normalcy for Ukrainian children facing the ongoing disruption of being displaced from their own schools. The camp’s daily activities are designed to offer a recreational, nurturing, and social and emotional-centered experience despite the war’s presence.

“The children and youth of Ukraine and Poland have gone through unimaginable pain, grief and obstacles as a result of this tragic and senseless war. As educators, we must wrap our arms around kids no matter where they live; this summer camp experience will help them just be kids again,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “We know what it’s like to see kids struggle because of trauma, and our folks wanted to answer that call, even when that means leaving their homes and their families for two weeks during summer vacation and traveling overseas. I visited the Polish-Ukrainian border earlier this year, and I saw just how much those kids wanted to be in school and feel ‘normal,’ so I’m incredibly proud that AFT members are now making this trip and utilizing their specific skills to help build a safe, welcoming environment where these kids can learn English, and have some fun, too.”

AFT’s delegation includes educators certified in English as a second language from nine states: California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin.

“The idea of this camp was brought up just a month ago during my conversation with President Weingarten, and the camp is ready to launch next week thanks to a unique collaboration between American, Polish, Israeli and Ukrainian partners,” said Kosciuszko Foundation President and Executive Director Marek Skulimowski. “It is very important to organize a safe vacation time for Ukrainian children, and give them a break from air raid sirens, tragic news and misery. The Ukrainian children will not only learn English and leadership skills, but will also have a quality time with their Polish counterparts. The war may be over within a year, but the consequences will stay for much longer. I hope it is the beginning of a productive cooperation between the Kosciuszko Foundation and AFT.”

Later this week, delegates to the AFT’s biennial convention will consider a resolution supporting Ukraine and addressing the needs of students, educators and teachers unions who have fled to neighboring countries, as well as those who remain in war-torn Ukraine. With AFT support, the Polish Teachers Union (ZNP) is also organizing camps throughout Poland.

AFT Teacher Delegation

AFT St. Louis—Missouri

  • Nelver Brooks

Albuquerque Teachers Federation—New Mexico

  • Katlin Nisse Riley
  • Irene Trujillo

Cleveland Teachers Union—Ohio

  • Kelly Kern 
  • Paul G. Siuda

McFarland Federation of Teachers—Wisconsin

  • Desiree Tran

Salinas Valley Federation of Teachers—California

  • Gabrielle DeVilla
  • Patricia Matulas Mason

South Shore Regional Vocational Teachers Federation—Massachusetts

  • Toni M. Bourgea

Syracuse Teachers Association—New York

  • Jean-Pierre Rosas                         

United Teachers of Dade—Florida          

  • Natalia Isabel Allen

United Federation of Teachers—New York

  • Alexandra Hernandez

West Suburban Teachers Union—Illinois

  • April Giannosa             

Yonkers Federation of Teachers—New York

  • Colette Hebert
  • Shai Stephenson

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.