LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – As Maria Rezhylo longs for peace for her family and her home country, she thought of a way to help from thousands of miles away.

After hearing the idea, the Student Government Association at her college sprang into action.

“My whole family essentially is from eastern Ukraine,” said Maria Rezhylo, a junior sports management and psychology major at Florida Southern College in Lakeland.

Rezhylo and her family were living in Donetsk when the conflict with Russia began in 2014. They were forced to move to Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine.

While Rezhylo left Ukraine for college in America, her family stayed in Ukraine.

In the early weeks of February, she monitored reports that Russia was planning to invade Ukraine.

Then on the night of Feb. 24, she got an alert on her phone before she was going to bed.

“I went online on Twitter. I was seeing what people were posting from all over Ukraine and I saw, like, explosions and I was like ‘Oh my God, they actually invaded’,” she said.

The gravity of the situation for her family and her country did not fully hit Rezhylo until she had some downtime over spring break.

“I just remember sitting down on Friday, the last day of classes before spring break and I just sat down and I started crying because it all just hit me,” she said. “It’s just a hard realization of when I’m going to see [my family] if I’m going to see them. Do I have a home now?”

She says her parents spend their days in their condo but sleep in a bomb shelter with about 50 other people.

One of the people sleeping in the shelter is pregnant, Rezhylo tells 8 On Your Side.

Her mother, a midwife, wants to stay in case she can help her when she goes into labor. Her father, who spent his career working in the railroad industry, is doing patrol work.

“They gave them guns and bulletproof vests and stuff like that. He’s patrolling the streets because what else can he do?” said Rezhylo.

She is able to speak to her parents every day over FaceTime and has asked them to leave Ukraine.

Her parents say they want to stay and see their country prevail.

Meanwhile, Rezhylo is studying at Florida Southern College, trying her best to focus on her studies and athletics as a member of the swim team.

While looking for ways to help Rezhylo found a Delaware-based company called “Ukraine Express.” The company sent goods from the U.S. to Ukraine before the war and is now sending donations to Ukraine, at no cost, according to Rezhylo.

“I emailed this information to the school president and I was like, I think it’s a good idea,” she said. “It doesn’t cost a lot but it gives you this feeling that you’re helping someone and it can actually provide a crucial life-saving support for someone in Ukraine.”

The FSC Student Government Association kicked into action and launched a donation drive Wednesday for medical supplies.

Items needed for donation are medical tourniquets, hemostatic-Celox, first aid kits, painkillers such as Ibuprofen or Tylenol, adhesive plasters in rolls, bandages, soothing ointments, and antiseptics.

“We all thought that we should do our part in helping those overseas because obviously, we couldn’t imagine being in a situation like that,” said Natalie McGinniss, SGA administrative vice president.

“I think one of the fallacies is that as students, we don’t really need to do anything or we’re just too young but there’s so much we can do at a college,” said Carter Webb, SGA vice president of finance. “I think it would be selfish for our campus to not do something about it. The people in Ukraine don’t really have a voice. They’re in a war. So the least that we can do is help them.”

The supplies can be placed in donation boxes at the school’s Moc Mart, TUTU’s, the Lobby and Student Org room in Rogers, and the Fannin Center.

There will also be a table outside “The Buck Stop” on campus for the next two Wednesdays from 11am-noon.

The donation drive ends April 7 and the items will be shipped to the Ukraine Express in Delaware and then sent to the war-torn region.

Rezhylo said the support for her country on her campus and around the world gives her strength.

“It’s just been incredible. I’ve never seen anybody supporting us like that,” she said.

Florida Southern College’s SGA is also collecting monetary donations for Ukraine.

These are the instructions from the college:

Donations can be made online through If donating online, make sure to add “Ukraine Project” to the “other section”. If donating through PayPal, add “Ukraine Project” to “special instructions”.