Posts Tagged ‘Curt Swarm’

What happened when three Ukrainian students reached out to Maharishi School in Fairfield, Iowa

June 3, 2022

How a conversation among friends sparked an effort to answer the call

I received an email alert and was surprised to read this wonderful story about something close to home. I inquired and found out how it came about from Curt Swarm, an Iowa weekly columnist, and Carol Chestnutt, the person featured in his article. Curt explained:

Well, Carol and Paul attend our church, First Presbyterian in Mt. Pleasant. At coffee, I was talking with Carol and she was asking about my Empty Nest column and I said that I could probably write about her and Paul, that everyone has a story. She then proceeded to tell this wonderful story about bringing the three Ukrainian Students to Maharishi School. Bingo! I asked her if we could get together for an interview so I could write the story. 

We met the next day. Such a wonderful visit. Not only did I interview her, but she gave me a tour of Vedic City and we stopped at one of the homes of a friend of hers. We also stopped at Maharishi University (MIU) and toured the campus.  So, Ken, this is how the story matriculated. 

Curt also gave me permission to “share this story on your blog, newsletter and the world. It’s the kind of story that needs to go around the world. ‘We need to help each other!'” Here is that inspiring story.

The Empty Nest: Three Ukrainian students to attend Maharishi School

By Curt Swarm   May 31, 2022

Mariia, Olena and Sviatoslav (or Sviat, pronounced “Fiat”) were in a quandary. All three are excellent students and college bound, but because of the war, their lives are scattered all over, some in other countries. These are teenagers, mind you, but they realized they had to take charge. They went to niche.com and searched for schools. They knew they wanted to go to the United States where they would be safer (hopefully). They did not want the east or west coasts because they feared the coasts could be the target of Russian nuclear attacks. The Midwest should be safer. They found that Maharishi School in Fairfield is the top private school in Iowa and in the top 6% in the U.S. Fairfield is a small town in the middle of nowhere, surely it would be safe.

Another attraction for the three war-torn students is that Maharishi School practiced yoga and Transcendental Meditation. One of the students’ mothers practiced yoga and TM, and the students knew it would help them cope with the stress of their new life.

One big problem is that they had no money. Their banks had been bombed so they had no access to what funds they had. But they called Maharishi School anyway. They were fortunate in talking to a lady in the admissions office who had a big heart. She talked to the head of the school, who said, “We’ll make it work.”

But they still have to get their visas. This requires travel to Bucharest, Romania. There is very little gasoline available, and they have no money. Somehow, they will accomplish it with nothing more than what they can carry in their backpacks. There will be days of waiting and living in the airport.

Meanwhile, in Fairfield, husband and wife, Paul Winer and Carol Chesnutt, in their late fifties, were discovering the hollowness of an empty nest. Their two girls had graduated from Maharishi School, and were off to college and doing other things. Carol and Paul discussed becoming foster parents.

Carol, with a degree in engineering, had done some marketing and part-time teaching at Maharishi. Her neighbor, who was in charge of admissions at Maharishi, called and said, “Carol, I need your advice. We have three Ukrainian students who contacted us. What’s the best way you can think of for raising money for their living expenses in the dorm?”

Carol’s heart skipped a beat. She talked to her husband, Paul. Yes, they had the room in their house for three students—two girls and one boy. However, these were war-traumatized teenagers. Wouldn’t they be better off with other students at the dorm, for interaction, socialization, and professional services, like counseling?  The cost for everything would be a little over $20,000 per student per year.

Carol set up a GoFundMe account. It started slow. She made some phone calls. They now have a little over $60,000. This is going to work! One donor offered to pay the students’ airfare and miscellaneous expenses, like for a comforter and curtains in their dorm rooms.

Carol and Paul know the students can’t spend their whole lives in the dorm, especially if they arrive this summer and classes don’t start until fall. Carol and Paul plan to host the students and make accommodations.

In Carol’s words, “We have to take care of each other. We can’t save three million, but we can save three. The first stage of a big undertaking is uninformed optimism. Then follows informed pessimism, once the hurdles are recognized. The third stage is adjusted reality, when it all comes together.” If you would like to help these three Ukrainian students, visit gofundme.com “Bring Ukrainian Students to U.S.” You will see Carol Chesnutt’s introduction.

* * *

More background information from Carol. In her reply, she wrote:

The story unfolded just as Curt said—around a table eating cookies after the church service. All of the story is accurate. 

It, indeed, has taken a team to support the Ukrainian kids: Springli and Michelle for having mothers’ hearts in the Enrollment Office at the School, Richard and Kaye and Laura for their compassionate, instant yes when offering full tuition scholarships, my husband who never says no to me when it comes to children, and the 65 donors. Most importantly, these kids have grit and inspired all of us.

Please put it on your blog! One of the students will be in 10th grade this fall so the School hopes to have her return for 2 more years which means we’ll need to do more fundraising for her. The more donations now, the better for later!

Michelle, the managing enrollment director at the school, wrote: “We are also grateful for Carol’s quick action to help champion the community support for these Ukrainian students who we are eager to have at our school. They are going to be excellent additions to our community!”

I agree. Looking forward to hearing more about this positive story as it continues to unfold over time.

Curt’s weekly column, “Empty Nest,” is published in 25 Iowa newspapers. Some of them that posted this story online are: Southeast Iowa Union, Ottumwa Courier, The Hawk Eye, Newton Daily News, Fort Madison Daily Democrat, Pen City Current, and The Bloomfield Democrat where I first read it.

Curt loves writing human interest stories and does so for free to practice his art. He says, “The column is an excellent creative outlet for me, as well as wonderful discipline—it requires me to write every week. And I haven’t missed a week in 15 years.” Visit Curt’s website to find out more about him.

If you have a good story, call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at curtswarm@yahoo.com

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