Ukraine’s national flower will be blooming this summer in Quesnel as a worldwide symbol of solidarity for the war-torn country.
The Rotary Club of Quesnel is awaiting hundreds of packets containing sunflower seeds it will sell to support refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Essentially, Ron Paull and I had independently thought of the idea at the same time,” said club secretary Simon Turner.
Turner follows daily updates shared online by Irish-born journalist Paul Hiland who has lived in Ukraine for nearly two decades.
Hiland, he said, still remains in Kyiv where he helped launch a suicide crisis line, Lifeline Ukraine, some time ago.
“I have absolutely no idea what the logic and motivation behind Putin doing this, but we know he’s holding a grudge,” Turner said.
“But that aside I don’t think how anybody could not be touched by it, and that seems to be the case more the people who have responded to our fundraiser.”
Turner guesses 75 people have already reached out to the local Rotary Club to pre-order packets of the $5 sunflower seeds, anticipated to arrive later this week.
He was just in the process of drafting an email to president Beverley Haluschak, who Paull had already reached out to.
“Great minds think alike, and then the two of us just started going from that point forward,” Turner said.
Paull, who has been a longtime Rotarian, said he was sitting in his recliner watching the “terrible” news on what is happening in Ukraine while flipping through his Veseys seed catalog.
“There were three pages of sunflowers, and at that precise moment on the news they mentioned that there was a bunch of people wearing sunflowers on their shirts and they said that was in recognition of Ukraine and the fact that the sunflower is Ukraine’s national flower, and that’s when the idea hit me,” Paull said.
“Maybe we could buy some seeds in bulk, package them up, and sell them with all the proceeds going to Ukraine through the Rotary Foundation’s disaster fund.”
Paull received the support of Haluschak, who had requested more information.
While two other seed companies were prepared to donate sunflower seeds or sell sunflower seeds at a discounted cost to the Rotary Club of Quesnel, Paull said they settled on Veseys, who agreed to donate the seeds in specially designed packets.
Once received, the club plans to distribute the packets to those already pre-ordered and brainstorm how they will sell the remaining packets at locations or in-person events throughout Quesnel.
Rotary is a global network of more than 46,000 clubs working together to promote peace, fight disease, save mothers and children, and more. Turner said all proceeds from their fundraiser would be managed by the Rotary Foundation’s disaster response fund to be used by local Rotarians in countries bordering Ukraine, such as Poland, towards humanitarian relief for refugees from Ukraine.
“I do not have a green thumb by any means, but I fully intend to have a patch growing eight-foot-tall sunflowers,” he said of what will be a summer of sunflowers this year for Ukraine.
An online contest for gardeners to share pictures of their sunflowers will be held in the coming months.
For more information visit the Rotary Club of Quesnel on Facebook or email RotaryClubOfQuesnel@gmail.com.