LEANDER (KXAN) — Sai Sriya Duggirala volunteers for ENGin, a non-profit that connects English speakers to students in Ukraine for one-on-one virtual language practice.

She got a text from one of the teens she works with during physics class this week.

“She was just telling me ‘Oh my God there are tanks near my house, I can hear shelling and it’s literally so crazy.’ And she was telling me how scared she was,” Duggirala said.

She had been keeping up with news about the war, but says that text changed everything.

“When somebody who’s in the situation tells you what’s going on and how hard it is for them and for everybody around them it just hits you at a different level,” she said. “And in that moment it was scary for me, and I wanted to cry.”

She says her student eventually fled to another and is safe – and they’re still in contact via text. And now, Duggirala is inspired to help and plans to use this experience to help spread the word about relief efforts.

“People are getting impacted. People are getting hurt. And we need to help them,” she said.

Duggirala currently works with two students. She’s been with one of them for a year – and the other for two weeks. The ENGin language sessions are on hold for now, but she says she’s continuing to keep in touch and check in with the students she works with.

“So when she told me that I’m going through this I’m like ‘Oh my God, my friend, she could die, something could happen to her. Something could happen to anybody at any point.’ It just hits you,” she said.

Duggirala is also urging her peers not to make light of the situation in Ukraine. She hopes sharing her students’ story helps generate a deeper understanding of the war amongst Central Texans.