UHD student from Ukraine raises money to help families in need

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- We've all seen the horrifying images from Ukraine.

Now imagine what it's like seeing them as you're stuck in Houston, with relatives back home who are living in Russian-occupied territory and having trouble even accessing bank accounts.

"I just talk to them every day constantly," said University of Houston-Downtown student Alona Makarenko. "You just wake up with the idea to just hear, 'Hi' from them and that's all you want to hear because it means they are alive."

Makarenko's mother, brother, and other relatives still live in a small village where she was born and raised, just 40 miles from the Russian border.

But the area has become unrecognizable to her. Makarenko's family has been surrounded by Russian tanks and military officers.

"They lost their jobs. Getting into town takes two or three hours to get groceries or to go to the bank, which doesn't work. So you can't really withdraw money," she explained.

Houston has always been an international hub. And Makarenko's fellow students, who are also studying International Business, understand better than many what's happening.

"Our parents are immigrants. We understand the displacement to a certain extent," said student Raquel Esqueda.

The university's International Business Association held a bake sale to raise money and awareness. The donations, which were organized through the university and with the help of volunteers with Seven Mile Road Church, will be added to other funds raised to send supplies to Ukraine.

"To be honest, when it just happened, I really wanted to be next to my family, no matter what," Makarenko said. "Because being in peace and knowing that everybody else is suffering is really hard."

For more information on the UHD International Business Association, you can visit the department's website.

A PayPal account has been created for anyone who would like to make a donation. The money raised will go to volunteers, nonprofit organizations and orphanages in Ukraine.

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