YORKTON - You may have seen people locally wearing pins in support of Ukraine in recent weeks.
The pins in yellow and blue are the creation of Sylvie Shields, her contribution to raising awareness for the hardships Ukraine is experiencing following its invasion by Russian troops.
“I have been making pins for almost two months now,” she explained. “They are in the colours of the Ukrainian flag (blue and yellow) with a sunflower, Ukraine's National flower.”
Shields said it is an effort that quickly grew beyond her initial plan.
“Initially, when I decided to make them, I was just going to give them to my colleagues at Parkland College to show support to our coworkers and the community,” she told Yorkton This Week.
“After mentioning my plans for the weekend to a few colleagues they suggested that I sell them. I have never sold any of my crafts before but I finally decided to go ahead and sell them and donate all the money raised to help the people in Ukraine. It would be a small way I could help.”
The idea was one that grew out of Shield’s general interest in doing crafts.
“I've always made different things over the years,” she said. “I love crafting, being creative, trying new mediums and making personalized gifts for family and friends.”
Shields said she has grown to respect Ukrainian culture locally and wanted to help too.
“I'm a Northern Ontario French girl transplanted in Yorkton for 12 years now,” she explained. “I do recall first moving here and exposing not only myself but my daughters to everything Yorkton had to offer and a big part of that was the strong Ukrainian culture and people. I wanted to do something to show support in some way aside from making personal donations.
“Watching the news and seeing the war start, I knew this was going to be a long and ugly situation.
“I immediately knew I wanted to do something and the more I watched how proud, resilient and brave the people of Ukraine remained and the relationship they have to their flag, it really connected with me and inspired me.”
Pins were not her first thought, just her best one.
“At first I thought about making ribbons but there was no stock in town therefore I decided that I had the equipment to help make unique pins instead,” said Shields. “I ordered my supplies from Amazon and waited.
“Initially I was just going to make blue and yellow pins, but then I saw the same news clip that most have of the brave woman giving the sunflower seeds to the Russian soldier. That was when I knew I was going to add that strong symbol that really moved me.”
Shields said the emotion of the situation really moved her to do something.
“As most I was heartbroken, angry, frustrated and felt hopeless watching what was happening in Ukraine,” she said. “I wanted to show support to not only all Ukrainians but our friends and our community during this appalling attack on innocent men, women and children of Ukraine but also the attack on freedom and democracy.”
The response has been surprising, said Shields. “I did discuss my ideas with a co-worker who is from Ukraine prior to making the pins to make sure I wasn't overstepping and (was) being respectful,” she said, adding, “the response has been very positive -- requests from Facebook/Messenger from different locations in the province as well as requests for pins from the surrounding areas, the public and even from back home in Ontario.
“A co-worker has also gotten quite a few requests for pins from her social media and has been provided with pins to a few individuals in the community, Regina and Saskatoon. I'm almost completely done with the last of my supplies for a few local groups but it is intricate work and many steps involved.
“Unfortunately it's only me therefore I try my best to do as much as I can in the evenings and weekends.”
Shields has been selling the pins for $5.00 each.
“Like I said I've never sold my crafts before therefore I don't have a dedicated social platform to sell them,” she said. “It's been by word-of-mouth at this point and social media; supplying them as people request them. I'm hoping to supply a few businesses with them and I do have requests from groups for pins to sell. I have created a new email account to make it easier for individuals to contact me. The email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
The funds will be donated to help Ukraine.
“One hundred per cent of any money raised from the purchase of the pins is donated,” said Shields.
Sales received from March 16 to April 4 have been donated on behalf of Parkland College to the Department of Education and Science of Lviv who are keeping three hospitals operational to meet the needs of the children and individuals in their care.
All proceeds of the sales after April 4th will be donated to the Canada-Ukraine Foundation (UCC National) campaign to raise $5 million to provide humanitarian assistance to Ukrainians in need and to address any further aggression by Russia.
“I am very determined and passionate to have all the money raised go directly to Ukraine and help now with their needs as they change and evolve,” said Shields.