This story is part of a series of blog entries to mark the 20th anniversary of the Future Leaders Exchange program (FLEX) in Ukraine. FLEX is the U.S. Government’s premier high school exchange program. For more information about U.S. exchanges please click here.
Posted by: Iryna Lysenko, Future Leaders Exchange Program 2002-2003, Fruitland High School (Fruitland, Idaho)
Volunteering to help people in new, meaningful and sustainable ways – that was the concept I adopted. It all started when I participated in the FLEX Program in 2002-2003. I spent an incredible year in Fruitland, Idaho, where I volunteered at the community library and in a fundraising campaign for the homeless. I decided I would continue after my year in the U.S. ended.
My successes of today are all a direct result of my volunteering efforts. I have been volunteering for various projects in Ukraine since 2004. In 2007-2008 I spent 10 months doing my European Voluntary Service (EVS) in Luxembourg. I promoted interreligious dialogue and researched cases of discrimination of international students on the student job market. I also taught English to Chinese and African students. It was such a fun and fulfilling project!
A year after that, in 2008, I founded the Youth NGO “Iskra” in Mykolaiv. “Iskra” focuses on intercultural and interreligious dialogue and also acts as a Sending Organization within the EVS program, funded by the European Commission. Since 2008 I have helped 29 young Ukrainians to find their passion and join a long-term voluntary service project abroad!
In 2009-2010 I became a volunteer for the Action Reconciliation Service for Peace in Gdansk, Poland. I organized study visits for German youth groups at the former concentration camp Stutthof, translated from Polish to German at archive tours, and visited elderly survivors of concentration camps.
Today I am a Master’s student in Peace and Conflict Resolution at the University of Marburg, Germany. I volunteer for an international network of youth organizations and plan to continue volunteering in the future. I am really grateful for my year in the USA that changed my whole perspective on how I can help and be useful for other people.