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Troy Council member supports Ukraine at home and abroad

(Morgan Schwanky, MMLJune 23, 2022)

The war in Ukraine has attracted worldwide attention, but for Michigan Municipal League board member Rebecca Chamberlain-Creang, it is personal.

Chamberlain-Kreanga, a Troy City Councilwoman who also works for The Kresge Foundation, spent two and a half years in Eastern Europe in the 2000s, earning her PhD in anthropology from the London School of Economics and Political Science. One of her experiences was working at the US Embassy in Moldova, neighboring Ukraine. While working there as a conflict specialist, including on projects with the World Bank, she built connections with many Ukrainians that she maintains to this day.

Her story is one of many stories about the people and communities of Michigan supporting Ukraine.

Chamberlain-Creanga’s love of learning suggests that lifelong learning is the foundation of social welfare. Her desire to gain new experience and knowledge helped her in ways she could not have imagined after the conflict in Ukraine.

Troy, Michigan has a very large Ukrainian American population, and her knowledge and personal connections helped spark inspiration and good relationships in the midst of the turmoil. Chamberlain-Kreanga spearheaded a proclamation of support for the Ukrainian community in and around Troy, which was unanimously approved by Troy’s city council. The idea for this proclamation came from a conversation Chamberlain-Creanga had with former Troy State Representative Martin Howrylak, an active member of the local Ukrainian-American community. The proclamation was formally presented to Troy resident Vera Petrusha, leader of the Ukrainian-American Michigan Crisis Response Committee, whose members were present at the reading of the proclamation at the city council meeting on February 28, 2022. Other officials, including Senator Gary Peters, tweeted their support. In addition, the proclamation was given to her hometown of Charlevoix, Michigan, where her father, Sherm Chamberlain, now serves on the planning commission after several years on the Charlevoix city council. Seeing Troy, the city of Charlevoix made its own statement of support for Ukraine.

“What is happening in the world is affecting people locally – those I serve – and making sure they know they are being cared for because my duty as a council member is to look after health, safety and well-being of our people,” Chamberlain-Kreanga. said. “When their well-being is at stake or they are struggling, I thought it was important to take a stand to say, ‘We support you.’

Hearing of the ruin of people both inside and outside her community, Chamberlain-Kreanga spurred action.

After the appeal was written, she noticed a Ukrainian flag flying over a house near her neighborhood and decided to make a cold call by walking up to the house and knocking on the door. In a conversation with a neighbor, it turned out that the family has Ukrainian roots, and several family members speak Ukrainian fluently. They explained to her that they stayed up until three in the morning every night trying to call their family just to see if they were alive.

After telling them about the proclamation, “they were so moved and they told their family in Ukraine about it and they were so moved,” she said.

Creating this sense of solidarity in her community in Troy and beyond is a great example of the importance of lifelong learning in building strong communities. Chamberlain-Creangi’s passion for serving her community, combined with her knowledge of the region, has enabled her to transform her community into a place where people are proud to live.

The teaching of Chamberlain-Kreanga has not ceased even now that the proclamation has been completed.

In April, when many were gathering in the warm climate for spring break, she and her family traveled to Oradea, Romania, close to the Ukrainian and Hungarian borders, to visit her husband Ovi’s family and provide humanitarian aid to fleeing Ukrainians. war. Oradea received many refugees, so she was able to visit several refugee centers there. Ovi’s friend helped set up a center for refugee children with special needs or disabilities, they work to help children from Ukraine so they can get the help they need. In addition, they visited a refugee center set up by the Red Cross and the Romanian authorities.

During the trip, she and her family were also able to visit the peaceful Chernivtsi region in western Ukraine. Uncle Ovi often travels there with supplies. Because the region is peaceful, “it’s an important hub for the supply of humanitarian aid,” she said. Chamberlain-Kreanga, her husband Ovi and their son William joined Uncle Ovi on one of his trips and were able to meet local authorities and visit refugee centers there.

Reflecting on her recent travels, Chamberlain-Kreanga noted that “a lot of it started out as a learning experience, going back to that pillar of social wealth creation. Just to talk to people first. It was really a teaching position, and then where we could help, where we could bring some donations.”

She stressed that listening is an important part of the lifelong learning process – listening to both refugees and those who run refugee centres. She learned more about how everyone works together to help people access the supplies and care they need.

While visiting Ukraine, Chamberlain-Kreanga was particularly impressed by the determination of the people.

“We saw billboards expressing urgency and positivity. There is such a feeling of love for the country and a feeling that “we can handle it.” When I tell them about supporting them in Michigan, people get the feeling that “if Troy, Michigan is with us, then the whole world is with us.” government humanitarian base. People who come to help write the names of their cities, so I wrote “Troy” there.

Her advice to others who want to continue their personal lifelong learning and help Ukraine is, “Number one, look around.”

She shared that there is always an opportunity to gain knowledge. Her commitment to lifelong learning is a prime example of the importance of continuing the pursuit of knowledge and how that knowledge can shape and influence our lives in ways no one could have expected. She noted that before acting, you always need to learn.

To develop better policies, to build stronger communities: “learning is needed,” she said.

An abridged version of this article was published in May-June 2022 release Review.

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