painting the future helping kids in ukraine

How Can We Help Ukrainian Children? By Painting the Future

Why does a 28-year-old happily working and living in America drop everything and move to Ukraine in the middle of a war? “The scenes of injustice were heart-wrenching,” Caroline Cappy explained. “I had to do something to help.” Caroline’s “soft spot” for children and a purpose-driven mission led her straight into the heart of the war-torn country to create her first non-profit, Painting the Future.

Connecting Through Kindness

Caroline and I both attended an all-girls school in Louisville, Kentucky, Assumption High School. One of my best friends from high school, Martha, is now the principal there. When Martha received this video featuring Caroline’s charitable work in Ukraine, she passed it onto me.

painting the future news
A preview of the news video from Ukrainian TV

Why is this important to Caroline’s story? Because kindness has a ripple effect. And I can’t say it enough. Kindness creates connection, and this is a perfect example.

Our high school has a deep history of service and compassion for others. As students, we were all reminded of the core values on a regular basis: ”Compelled by Mercy,” “A Voice for Dignity and Respect,” and “Principled Leadership,” to name a few. Service work was a required part of our curriculum.

So, it came as no surprise to learn that one of my fellow alumnae had made it part of her life mission. I am grateful that Caroline and I were connected and have had the opportunity to learn from each other. And I am honored to share her story with you.

A Call to Serve

The most intriguing aspect of Caroline’s story to me is how it started. Comfortably living and working as a Forensic Technology Senior Associate at PwC in New York City, why would she trade it all in to move to a country in the midst of war?

The Russian invasion of Ukraine was shocking. For Caroline, the scenes she was seeing in the media were deeply disturbing and simply too much to bear. The tipping point came in May of 2022, and she realized that she had to do something to help.

After putting in a request for leave, PwC graciously offered her a sabbatical with a flexible return date. That was the green light Caroline needed.

I’ve always been drawn to service. I considered a career with the police and military. I have always felt a strong desire to serve the community.

-Caroline Cappy

Putting Skills to Work

Caroline has always had a “soft spot” for children. So, she focused on how she could assist the women and children of Ukraine who were suffering in the fallout of the military action. Pairing that with her IT skills, she found a good fit with the non-profit, Aerial Recovery.

At that time, Aerial Recovery’s mission in Ukraine was facilitating the safe relocation of orphans out of dangerous areas. Caroline explained, “Working with Aerial Recovery, I was able to assist with these rescue operations as well as help coordinate field trips, delivery of humanitarian aid, and movement of donations from Poland to Ukraine.”

To ensure that the critical work would continue, Caroline and the Aerial Recovery team educated locals and helped them establish their own non-profit, The Mamay Project. Knowing that the life-saving work would carry on, Aerial Recovery left Ukraine to continue their mission elsewhere. But Caroline wasn’t ready to go.  She knew there was still so much more to do.

Deciding to stay in Ukraine, I asked myself: what else do I have to offer to these people that have been through so much?

-Caroline Cappy

Art–An Escape, A Haven

Working on computers is not Caroline’s only skill. Caroline is an avid art lover and fondly remembers her experience with art as a child, “I was able to use art as a way to find my inner peace.”

She explained further: “Art is a phenomenal therapeutic tool. Engaging in the [creative] process enables one to connect fully with oneself and the present moment. It allows the processing of thoughts and feelings.”

A State of “Flow”

The state of the mind that Caroline is describing has a term. It’s known as the optimal experience or the “flow” state and was originally identified by the renowned psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

“A flow state can be defined as a sort of effortless attention. When in flow, we are deeply absorbed in our activities yet there is no feeling of exerting effort.”


In my article, Flow: Taming the Monkey Brain, I explain how achieving a state of flow is conducive to happiness, optimism, and improvements in well-being. Caroline’s dream was to be able to provide displaced children a space for creative freedom–a space for rare moments of peace and joy to lose themselves in the art.

Painting the Future

“After months of working with displaced Ukrainians, I realized that the children needed an outlet to express themselves–to find joy in colors and light–amid the trauma of life in war,” Caroline told me as she described her journey.

With that goal in mind, Caroline founded a new US based non-profit: Painting the Future, Inc. Painting the Future focuses its efforts on children who have been displaced by war: those living in shelters, hospitals, orphanages, and refugee centers.

Its primary mission is to provide opportunities for these children to escape the difficulties of their daily lives and lose themselves in art. At organized art workshops, the children can draw and paint on multiple mediums. 

painting the future ukraine group of children
Ukrainian children painting at one of Caroline’s workshops

Working closely with local artists and musicians, Painting the Future also strives to empower others to branch out and continue the mission on their own as well. Caroline explained, “I created this non-profit to provide displaced children facing extreme hardships with the tools, encouragement, and opportunity to create art and to empower local artists to lead these art workshops.”

Painting the future boy painting ukraine
A Ukrainian boy painting a picture of the father he lost in the war.

Reality Calls

Caroline recently returned to America. Although she would have loved to stay in Ukraine and continue to host the workshops for children, she couldn’t continue afford to live off her savings and had to return to work. So now, she’s focusing on raising funds to continue her mission from a distance. Caroline has come back to America with over 80 pieces of art, which she will be auctioning off to raise funds for Painting the Future.

“At the conclusion of art workshops, children have the option to keep their paintings or use those paintings to help fundraise for other children in Ukraine. We also tell them the specific need that we are fundraising for. The response is heart-warming to see so many children beam with joy at the thought of helping other children,” Caroline expressed.

The Crisis Continues

On March 18th, she will open her first art exhibition at G Gallery, in New York City. G Gallery has generously donated their space for one week, as well as providing marketing materials and support. In addition to art work, Caroline has organized the event to celebrate Ukrainian culture and involve the local community, inviting Ukrainian musicians and artists to perform. And, as Painting the Future is all about the children, there will be daily art workshops for local children as well.

Of course, Caroline hopes that the exhibit will raise funds for future art workshops and necessary medical supplies for the children in Ukraine. But she is also adamant about the importance of spreading awareness. The war in Ukraine has been going on for over a year, and it’s not highlighted in the media as often anymore.  But the humanitarian crisis continues. And the children still need our help.

art exhibition for ukrainians
Painting the Future’s first art exhibition flyer

An Inspirational Purpose

It has been a joy connecting with Caroline. I have been inspired by her ability to focus on her goals without being discouraged by roadblocks. This is a journey of many “firsts” for her: first time establishing a non-profit, importing art, putting on an art exhibition. She spends tireless hours working towards her goals and focusing on the others she is aiding.

Where does she find the energy? Caroline’s mission is purpose driven. She works for the children and does everything in her power to provide them with light and joy in their lives during such a difficult time.

What Can You Do?

Please take a moment to check out Caroline’s website for her non-profit: You will find information on the charity, upcoming events and plans for the future. Also, have a look at the online auction here. Even though the NYC exhibition will be for one week, the auction will continue as long as Caroline is able to keep showing the art and spreading awareness. Then, at the end of the tour, all artwork will be sent to buyers.

Caroline’s Dream for the Future

This week’s art exhibition will last for a week.  But then what?  Caroline’s taking it on the road, of course. She’s already managed to secure the next leg of the exhibition–in Tulsa! Painting the Future’s second confirmed exhibit will be at the University of Tulsa’s Oklahoma Center for the Humanities. This year, Tulsa’s #1 Art Festival, Mayfest, is having its 50th Anniversary, and the theme is Freedom. A perfect fit for Caroline’s cause.

But her long-term goals are bigger than just Ukraine.  Her dream is to help displaced children, wherever they may be. She explained, “This [organization] has been designed to be a much-needed source of joy, light, and inspiration for children who are enduring physical, emotional, or spiritual strife.” And, sadly, that happens too frequently and in too many different places.

Caroline’s dream and Painting the Future give me great hope for the future. I am confident her perseverance and purpose-driven mission will continue to change children’s lives for years to come. I’ll be keeping an eye on her.

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