Sunday, June 12, 2011

Kharkiv EuroClub Volunteer Seminar

Last Thursday, one of my fellow English teachers and I attended a seminar about Volunteer movement among youth at School No. 65 in Kharkiv. The seminar was the first of its kind, led by the organization EuroClub. EuroClub is a popular after-school activities club focused on studying European countries and they host different events throughout the year. Many schools participate in EuroClub events and I plan to start a EuroClub at my school in the fall!

Everyone present at the seminar!

There were members of about 10 different volunteer organizations present at this seminar, and teachers from about 15 different EuroClubs located in Kharkiv and Sumy Oblast (Sumy borders Kharkiv to the west). I was excited to meet the president of Kharkiv's AIESEC organization and I was impressed to meet a Ukrainian university student who had lived and worked as a volunteer in India through AIESEC.

The Ukrainian teachers and representatives from different volunteer organizations.

Here is a photo of the representatives from Svit Ukraine - an organization which sponsors volunteers to come to work on projects and camps in Ukraine from different countries.  They currently have 2 volunteers in the Kharkiv area and others scattered around the country, such as in Donetsk.

Two of Svit Ukraine's volunteers: Caroline from France (far left) and Hank from Germany.

I was invited to represent Peace Corps at this seminar by my friend Oksana, one of the Ukrainian English teachers. They asked me to say a few words about Peace Corps in Russian, so thankfully I had brought along a piece of paper with some PC statistics and history from our Language Manuals.
I started out my speech by apologizing for butchering the endings since I only studied Russian for 3 months here.

It was really interesting to see what local volunteer organizations do in Ukraine, and to hear about some of their projects. Luckily this seminar was presented in Russian (and not Ukrainian), so I could understand most of what was going on.

The school director spoke a few minutes to welcome us all to her school and to begin the seminar.

After each of the organizations introduced themselves, we had a mini "press-conference" where some representatives from the different organizations sat on stage and the audience was permitted to ask us questions. The questions that came from the audience were thought-provoking such as how do different countries view volunteering and in what professional spheres are volunteer opportunities available. These questions were interesting to me as well, since I have little knowledge of what volunteerism is like in France, Germany or even in Ukraine - most international people (outside of other Peace Corps volunteers) that I meet in Ukraine are university students or working here, not volunteers.

The "press conference" panel of volunteers.
The seminar also included some time for the students to attend breakout sessions and come up with their own project ideas for volunteers in Kharkiv and in Ukraine. After the breakout sessions, the students came back to the main auditorium and presented their ideas to everyone. This was great because the students were able to recieve feedback from actual volunteer organizations, which gives them more of a chance to take the intitative and actually launch their own projects in the future.

I have a few weeks off from work now, then I'm headed off to Camp HEAL in Sumy Oblast in July! Happy travels and have a great summer everyone :)


Kimberly said...

I love your blog! I actually just got accepted into the PC and have been invited to serve in the Ukraine... its nice to see such a detailed perspective of the experience.

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