Earlier this year, two married Fairfax County Public School educators each took a separate, self-funded trip to the Ukrainian border to assist with World Central Kitchen, celebrity chef José Andres’ nonprofit devoted to providing meals after natural disasters (and in this case, war).
Lee and Meredith Hedrick teach at Woodson High School and Annandale High School, respectively. Lee is a government teacher and Meredith is chair of the English for Speakers of Other Languages Department.
While the two did not get to meet Andres personally, as former Peace Corps volunteers, they were appreciative of the individuals they did get to meet.
“The type of people attracted to this organization are people you want to be around: dynamic, hard-working, exciting, and innovative,” Meredith says. “Working alongside Polish and Ukrainian local partners allowed us to learn not only about the conflict but them as humans.”
While Meredith worked in distribution during her week volunteering, Lee was in the kitchen prepping food, particularly sandwiches, often making 4,000 to 5,000 per day. He later volunteered at a train station helping people coming and going from Ukraine.
The Hedricks are eager to share their experiences in the classroom this fall.
“As a government teacher, I talk a lot about foreign policy, going to war, and using diplomacy,” Lee says. “I now have a much better idea of the impacts of war on refugees — I also have empathy for students who are refugees in the U.S.”
Lee also mentioned he feels compassion for military families, too, many of whom have children whose parents are gone for months at a time.
“What I always tell my students is to be the change you want to see,” says Meredith. “We’re people who like to be on the move — this was a perfect opportunity for us to interact with others — if a field is important to you, use those strengths and skills you have.”
Meredith also mentioned the neighbor and friend she went on her trip with. Her friend was better at back-of-the-house organization in the distribution center, while Meredith excelled at front-of-the-house interaction.
“I would say the same, I encourage kids to engage themselves civically and be engaged with their community,” Lee says. “It’s easy to get frustrated with the situation of the world today; I encourage them to do something to help out.” Lee went on his trip with his friend Mac, who runs the local food truck Mac’s Donuts.
The Hedricks met at Michigan State University. They became better friends during overseas studies in Brussels. They traveled to Poland together in 1994 as part of their studies.
The two served in the Peace Corps, then worked in international development in downtown DC. When the couple found out about George Washington University’s “Transition to Teaching” program with Fairfax County, it was a “no-brainer,” Meredith says. The program paid for their teaching certifications and master’s degrees. Both Meredith and Lee have been teaching at their local high schools ever since.
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