International Student Develops Application To Support Fellow Ukrainians

After witnessing her family and fellow Ukrainians forced from their country due to the Russo-Ukrainian War, Sasha Shafran ’25 was inspired to help those suffering.

“The war in Ukraine, my family being forced to flee the country, and not having a defined place I can call home came together all at once,” says Shafran, studying business with minors in mathematics and psychology. “In the first weeks of the full-scale war in Ukraine, I organized a daily online school for almost 200 kids, who were forced to spend endless time in bomb shelters.”

Wheat in the AppStore #2

Shafran’s concept is designed to support the psychological aspect of refugees facing forced emigration. The gamified application in the Ukrainian language is called Wheat: Take Your Mind Home. 

Each interactive level of the application corresponds with the stages of forced emigration, validating and raising awareness of the shared feelings of immigrants. Shafran looks to add a new feature, allowing users to connect. 

“One of my major takeaways from building and launching Wheat would be the idea of discipline and consistency,” says Shafran. “It was crucial to push myself every day. I now always remember that it isn’t for the good days when I feel inspired to save the world and help every forced emigrant, but for days when nothing goes my way and I still do something very little for the project.”

During the 2023 Zingale Big Idea Competition at Allegheny College, Shafran won 1st place in the non-profit category. Shafran also received a grant from the Resolution Project to develop the application. She says Chris Allison, co-director of Allegheny’s Bruce R. Thompson Center For Business & Economics, has been a source of encouragement and advice through the process.

“Shafran isn’t actually as much a student as she is a force of nature. I have yet to meet a young person with so much enthusiasm, drive, or grit,” says Allison. “What’s most amazing is that she has unleashed these gifts to eliminate human suffering– talk about inspirational.”

Today, Shafran collaborates with seven other professionals who support the application, which is available for download on the App Store. Soon after the project’s launch, Shafran posted a viral TikTok video, reaching over 65,000 views. 

Shafran says the application is rapidly expanding, and her team is troubleshooting ways to incorporate user feedback to refine the project. Additionally, she acknowledges that the process has taught her skills related to operations, human resources, graphic design, and marketing.

“It’s important to remember that the forced emigration crisis is just a consequence. The most effective way to end it is to eliminate the reason– the war. Donating, spreading the information, raising awareness, and avoiding propaganda is the best way to deal with it,” says Shafran. “As an American citizen, one can help Ukrainian refugees and refugees from another country by hosting them, helping them to find work or suitable education, and satisfying their basic needs such as food or water.”