Barrie, Ont. teen returns from trip providing backpacks to Ukrainian refugees in Poland

Oscar Oliver on top of 350 filled backpacks. Supplied by Gary Oliver

A teen from Barrie, Ont., is proving that small ideas can make a big difference when you set your mind to it after raising funds to donate over a thousand backpacks to children fleeing Ukraine.

While most Grade 8 students are still settling into the start of school, Oscar Oliver, 13, from Barrie, Ont., just returned from a trip to Poland where he packed and handed out over 350 new backpacks for children fleeing the war in Ukraine.

The backpacks are each filled with supplies, toys, gifts, and games.

“I wanted to try and give them useful things when they fled the country to go to Poland, to stay there,” Oliver told Global News.

“I decided to do backpacks because they can hold every one of your belongings in a backpack.”

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Oscar Oliver handing backpack and gifts to a young Ukrainian refugee. Supplied by Gary Oliver
Oscar Oliver with some of the Ukrainian refugee children – loaded with backpacks and gifts. Supplied by Gary Oliver

Oliver was at the Warsaw Zoo in Poland earlier this month with his family to personally hand out backpacks to kids.

During his visit, he was invited to the Canadian embassy in Warsaw to discuss his buy a backpack campaign.

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Oscar Oliver with some of the Canadian Embassy team in Warsaw, Poland. Supplied by Garry Oliver

Read more: Nearly two-thirds of Ukraine’s children have fled homes since Russian invasion: UN

When asked how the families he helped reacted, Oliver said they were very happy.

“The mothers were so happy for their children, and they wanted to hug me, and the children were so excited to get the backpacks from me, and as soon as they got the backpacks, they went over to open them to see what was inside.”

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine started in February, the United Nations estimates over 4.4 million people have fled the war into Poland, with millions more also going to other countries.

Oliver started his website to collect money and donations in April, with people able to donate $60, which provided a child in need with new backpacks filled with education supplies, toys, games, snacks, and Lego.

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Since starting, he has been able to raise enough funds to fill 1,342 backpacks, surpassing his original goal of 200.

Read more: Winnipeg summer camp for Ukrainian kids wraps up

Oliver said that of the 1,342 backpacks, 600 come from a donation from Indigo Canada.

“I realized that there were tons of kids my age, all the way up to 17, that have nothing, and I have a lot of things. I realized that they needed something, so that’s why I wanted to give them something for them to remember and to cherish (and know) that someone’s thinking about them,” Oliver said.

He is planning a second trip back to Poland this November to deliver the remainder of the supplies gathered and is working to raise enough money on his website to ship the items.

Anyone wanting to support his cause can find all the details on the Oscar Oliver’s Mission website.

Click to play video: 'Child care concerns for Ukrainian refugees'
Child care concerns for Ukrainian refugees

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