Creating a Better World by Practicing Multilateral Diplomacy

Posted by: N. Kumar Lakhavani, Information Management Specialist

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ModelUNI got excited when I saw an email from Peace Corps Director Dr. Doug Teschner inviting me to attend the Model United Nations (MUN) Camp managed, hosted, and taught by U.S. Peace Corps volunteers in Ukraine. I quickly made up my mind to take the weekend off and go to Odesa to attend and speak at the conference on my own dime and my own time. This was an opportunity of a lifetime to speak to the inspiring future leaders of Ukraine and also meet Peace Corps volunteers and camp counselors.

The MUN conference consisted of a week of activities that offered bright high school students a unique opportunity to learn about global issues, develop skills in negotiation and debate, and become friends with other remarkable individuals from all over Ukraine.

It was a quick trip! I booked a flight to Odesa for Saturday morning and a day train from Odesa returning back to Kyiv on Sunday. The Embassy’s Public Affairs Office pointed me in the right direction so I could prepare a message about diplomacy, volunteerism, and development of communication and negotiation skills. Knowing how much Peace Corps volunteers give up to serve overseas, I wanted to speak about the importance of volunteerism.

MUNdiscussion1I flew down to Odesa early Saturday morning and in less than two hours a taxi got me safely to the MUN Camp in Odesa Oblast. Sixty attendees, 20+ Peace Corps Volunteers, and 10+ camp counselors were in the middle of a meeting working hard to pass a MUN resolution. Participants were representing countries from Angola to Afghanistan, Cuba to Croatia, Panama to Pakistan. You could see all of the hard work and effort that was put into this camp by Peace Corps Volunteers like Lukas Henke, Natalie Gmitro and Julie Daniels.

MUN Camp participants had been at the event the entire preceding week starting at 7 AM and finishing as late as 10 PM every day. They discussed parliamentary procedures, meetings as nations, global issues, and had already taken votes on different resolutions. The camp included some fun evening events such as a talent show, “Activities from Around the World,” networking, and a bonfire.

MUN-Meetingconclusion1I was given the podium on Saturday to speak to the participants about “Diplomacy, Democracy, and the Value of Helping Others by Volunteering.” After my remarks, participants spent 45 minutes asking me questions. I was also invited to attend a training session about corruption later that day. At the session, participants discussed the definition of corruption, their thoughts about corruption in Ukraine, the causes of corruption, and shared ideas about how to eradicate corruption in their country. The campers took turns roleplaying to explore what corruption looked like and how individuals could work towards making Ukraine a corruption- free society. Georgia’s success in reducing corruption was cited by participants.

At the conclusion of the corruption session, I was given a thank you note signed by the participants sharing their appreciation for my travel all the way to the camp in Odesa Oblast to speak.

A Peace Corps Volunteer showed me the way to the marshrutka stop with my most prized possession that day in my hands. The two hour marshrutka ride back to Odesa was tough but reading the thank you note made me realize it was all worth it!

The Positive Power of Hip-Hop in Ukraine

Posted by: Arthur Evans, Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer

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IMG_1810Recently I joined Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, his family and an audience of over 10,000 on Independence Square to watch the World Breakdancing Championship.  Sponsored by Burn Battle School, hundreds of young Ukrainian b-boys and b-girls “battled” (competed) in four categories: best youth b-boy, men’s, women’s and team or “crew.”  I was blown away by the popularity of the event and amazed at the skill level of the Ukrainian breakers.  Even more impressive was that, although competition was fierce, the atmosphere was positive — even festive — a bit like watching a college football game in my native Ohio.

IMG_2483Because our Embassy was one of the event’s sponsors, the Ambassador awarded the first place prize in the youth category.  The winner was a 10-year old dancing tornado from Kyiv: Andrei Kirilin. Taking first was no small feat on Andrei’s side.  The youth division included kids as old as 16, and many of the contestants were almost twice Andrei’s size.  But in breaking, where preparation, innovation and speed trump strength, “Davids” often best “Goliaths.”  Andrei’s victory was a testament to years of training and the support of his studio, Kinder Crew of Kyiv.  Backstage, many of Andrei’s Kinder Crew friends were there to support him along with older b-boy mentors, coaches, and family.

Hip-hop and, by extension, breaking, has always faced an up-hill battle in the image department, partly due to a “gangster” motif that has eclipsed other aspects of the movement, and partly due to misconceptions of what b-boying is really about.  If my experience on the Maidan showed me anything, it is that breakdancing can set a positive example for young people in Ukraine.  No matter how hard two “crews” “ battled”, and no matter the color of their skin or where they were from, when the music stopped and the winner was announced the competitors always came together in the center of the stage, shook hands, embraced and showed signs of mutual respect.

IMG_0990These positive aspects are in keeping with breaking’s American roots. When it emerged from New York’s boroughs in the 1970s, break dancing’s “street” status meant there were no coaches, teams or leagues.  For an aspiring b-girl or b-boy, getting in was easy but getting good was hard.  You had to learn from somebody.  Talk to any accomplished “old” b-boy or b-girl about how they learned and they will smile and rattle off the names of the best b-boys in the previous generation: people who inspired them, took them under their wing, and invited them to join a “crew” that could help them reach the next level.  “Each one teach one” is a quiet mantra in breakdancing that still holds true.

Perhaps no other crew has internalized “each one teach one” like Seattle, Washington’s Massive Monkees Crew.  Our Embassy was proud to support them as our country’s entry in the Burn Battle School’s team competition.  As dancers, Massive Monkees have won at the highest international level.  But what sets them apart is how they have parlayed that success into opportunities for their community, and particularly for the next generation.  One example is their Extraordinary Futures NGO, which uses dance to teach self-discipline, boost confidence, and broaden the horizons of at-risk kids.  In recent years they have even used city support and crowd sourcing to turn their Seattle dance studio, aptly called “the Beacon,” into a community center complete with afterschool programs, toddler dance classes, music and art.  No wonder the Mayor of Seattle created a “Massive Monkees Day” in their honor.

IMG_3345Massive Monkees brought this spirit of civic activism with them to Kyiv. Over the course of three days they taught classes, visited summer camps, hosted hip hop films, judged dance contests and performed for thousands of young Ukrainians.  They talked about breakdancing’s celebration of diversity and demonstrated its ability to break down barriers and to build young people up.  But Massive Monkees weren’t alone in delivering this message. Their trip was supported by a national network of Ukrainian crews and dance studios.  At each event they were joined by veteran Ukrainian b-boys and b-girls who shared their own experience with the younger kids or were there as chaperones, trainers and mentors.

In the end, one can say that this year’s Burn Battle School was a success because hundreds of kids competed and thousands more came to watch.  But what is more important is that it proved that breaking is alive and well in Ukraine.  Clearly, local b-boys and b-girls have developed a thriving community that stretches from Kyiv to Sevastopol, Lviv to Lutsk ….And that’s a good thing.

20 Years of Success: Stories from our FLEX Alumni — “Such international friendships gave all of us an opportunity to review our stereotypes about other nations and cultures”

FLEX LogoThis 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: Alina Nikulina, Future Leaders Exchange Program 2010-2011, Gahanna High School, Gahanna, Ohio

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During the year I spent in the U.S. I re-evaluated my values, ​​changed my life views and saw how other people live. I shared traditions and even recipes from my country with my American friends. I spent the 2010-2011 school year on the Future Leaders Exchange Program (FLEX) in Gahanna, Ohio.

Alina Nikulina, FLEX Alumni, with her American friends
Alina Nikulina, FLEX Alumni, with her American friends

I was always sociable and it helped me in my U.S. school. I talked with my classmates and teachers a lot and got to know a foreign educational system. I should say, it is very different from the one we have in Ukraine. In American schools, for example, we could choose our classes. Of course, there were also some compulsory ones, but in general teachers allowed us to move in the direction we wanted. For example, I was always interested in international business and languages and I succeeded in International Business Class. Of course, I was unable to learn Spanish in just one year in America, but now I continue to study it. I received prizes in different competitions. Now I have a folder full of certificates that will help me in my future career.

Besides studying in America, I had a wonderful opportunity to communicate with people there. Now I have an American family that became as close to me as my own. I have friends not only among Americans but also among people from other countries. Such international friendships gave all of us an opportunity to review our stereotypes about other nations and cultures. In America we all represented our own culture. We did not only learn from Americans, but Americans also learned from us.

I believe that such exchange programs present their participants with great opportunities. They also help us understand each other and give us the possibility to hear one another in the world without aggression and wars.

20 Years of Success: Stories from our FLEX Alumni — “In the U.S., I saw how people want to help their own country, how citizens strive to work and sacrifice for their motherland”

FLEX LogoThis 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: Andriy Bryn, Future Leaders Exchange Program 2004-2005, Eldorado High School, Eldorado, Oklahoma

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Why do people from my country want to benefit from Ukraine, but don’t want to do anything for its development? Why do people not want to volunteer? I was asking myself these questions again and again when I lived in the United States. I got a chance to study in the U.S. with the FLEX Program. I had my life changed after coming back home, because I already had a goal. I wanted to change the situation in my native country.

Andriy Bryn, FLEX alumni
Andriy Bryn, FLEX alumni

In the U.S., I saw how people want to help their own country, how citizens strive to work and sacrifice for their motherland. I was surprised that Ukrainians don’t do the same.  I was deeply absorbed with an idea to change this situation, to come back home, to become an active community leader and to work on the development of a democratic society in my homeland. After coming back from the States I became a student of the Ivan Franko National University in Lviv. I also started working at the non-profit organization “Young Power”. In three months, I became a Vice-President and in a year I became the President of this organization. At the same time I started to work at the Youth Department of the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of Ukraine. Working at an NGO and a political party I got great experience both in NGO management and the party-building processes.

These professional activities were valued by the International Visegrad Fund, which granted me a scholarship to study at one of the best European schools – Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, where I got a Master’s degree in International Economic and Political Studies. Later, I was offered a position of Vice-Chairman of the Lviv regional organization of the political party “Ridna Vitchyzna” (“Native Homeland”) and the Chairman of its Youth Department. I worked on projects not only in Ukraine, but also in Prague, Czech Republic. I initiated a series of presentations about Ukraine at Charles University. At the same time I ran for Lviv regional council of Ukraine (Lvivska oblasna rada). I gained fourth place out of 13 candidates. More than a thousand people voted for me and I think it is a great result for a 23 year-old young leader.

After successfully completing a Master’s Degree in International Economic and Political Studies I was accepted into a PhD program in Management, Finance, Environment, Institutions in the Global Economy at the La Sapienza University of Rome, Italy. I became the only foreigner in this PhD program, who received a full fellowship offer from the University. My research topic is “Geoeconomic Priorities of Ukraine in the Global Integration Context:  Ways of Realizing a Geo-economic Model of Ukraine.” I hope that the topic of my thesis will help me to combine my research work in Italy with political and community activities in Ukraine.

20 Years of Success: Stories from our FLEX Alumni — “It was very different than what I was used to in Ukraine. In America, I could choose classes I wanted to take”

FLEX LogoThis 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: Artem Sokolskyi, Future Leaders Exchange Program 2004-2005, Timberland High School, O’Fallon, Missouri

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In 2004-2005, I participated in the Future Leaders Exchange Program (FLEX) in O’Fallon, Missouri. There I volunteered at a local YMCA and saw how I could volunteer for my home community.

Participants of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Program

In the USA, I noticed that the YMCA center organized many clothing and toy drives for overseas children and soldiers. I found out more about these activities from my Volunteer Coordinator. Thus, in 2006, my friends and I founded an NGO called the European Students’ Forum in Kharkiv. Our second biggest project was an annual clothes and toy summer drive for orphans, during which we collected a total of a truck full of donations, including two children’s beds, for five local orphanages. I was really satisfied with the results.

Also, in O’Fallon, Missouri, I went to Timberland High School. It was very different than what I was used to in Ukraine. In America, I could choose classes I wanted to take. I chose Journalism which allowed me to win a Missouri State Supreme Photojournalism Award – the first one in the history of Timberland High School. Later, in 2009, I took part in the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Program and became an intern with a Member of Parliament and a Senator in Canada. I volunteered to be the editor-in-chief of the program newsletter and created three issues, one of which featured a completely new design, for which I used the knowledge of journalism gained in the U.S. This design became the standard for all issues of the program newsletters ever since.

20 Years of Success: Stories from our FLEX Alumni — “The year I spent in the USA was one of the most important years in my life because it gave me the inspiration for the rest of the years to come”

FLEX Logo

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: Roman Fishchuk, Future Leaders Exchange Program 2003-2004, Penn Manor High School, Lancaster, Pennsylvania

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The year I spent in the USA was one of the most important years in my life because it gave me the inspiration for the rest of the years to come. In 2003-2004, I lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on the Future Leaders Exchange Program (FLEX).

Upon arriving back home, I became a student of the medical university in my home town. At that time the first modern cinema theater opened in Ivano-Frankivsk. So I decided to help with its promotion. I approached the administration of the theater and asked them to sell cheaper tickets for students. They agreed. That project was a great success for everyone. Students got cheap tickets to watch new movies in a brand new cinema and the theater received a huge promotion. I was happy to feel that I had improved the social life of students a bit.

Roman Fishchuk, FLEX alumni 2003-2004
Roman Fishchuk, FLEX alumni 2003-2004

I also started my scientific career. I became a board member of the student’s scientific society at Ivano-Frankivsk National Medical University. I was involved in the Ear, Nose and Throat Disease Department. I participated in many conferences in Ukraine and abroad. I was a member of the organizing team during local conferences at our university. During my fourth year of medical school I was Medical Science Director of the European Medical Students’ Association (EMSA). At that time I initiated the creation of an EMSA branch in Ivano-Frankivsk. EMSA-Ivano-Frankivsk started with five active students, many ideas and enthusiasm in 2007. In three years, this number increased to 50 active members with many volunteers. The biggest event we organized was the World Health Day in 2010. Our team was the core organizer of a five day event. Only our town received an official Certificate of Participation from the World Health Organization.

Being a member of a European association helped me to find funds to support our initiatives and to improve the life of people in need in Ukraine. Examples of our activities include summer camps for handicapped children from an orphanage, social rehabilitation for the elderly living in geriatric centers, providing institutions in need with the goods. I was also lucky to provide my alma mater with fairly new educational materials and medical equipment.

Now I am in my second year of Internship in Ear, Nose and Throat Diseases. I have just returned from a research fellowship in Belgium, awarded and financed by the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. I am also working in the Public Council at the Ministry of Health of Ukraine and am developing an organization of junior doctors within the Ukrainian Medical Association. I should say that the year I spent in the U.S.A. had a tremendous influence on my life. I was lucky to visit my host family later on, in 2006. I am sure we will meet again since we keep in touch regularly.

Embassy Ukraine in Full Swing with the 2012 Season of Summer Work and Travel

By Summer Work and Travel Coordinators, Consular Section, U.S. Embassy Kyiv

On Thursday March 1st, colleagues in the Consular section at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv hosted the second annual Summer Work and Travel (SWT) webchat. To view last year’s webchat, click here. To see this year’s webchat click here (Part 1), here (Part 2) and here (Part 3).

Since 1992, the U.S. Embassy has facilitated the travel of 60,000 Ukrainian students to participate in this unique program. The below chart indicates the number of Ukrainian students who applied to participate in the program since 2007:

The SWT program is a unique exchange visitor program. While on the program, SWT students have the opportunity to work, travel and participate in an enriching cultural exchange program. To participate in the program, every interested Ukrainian student must have a U.S. based sponsor, who will vet their jobs and facilitate their journey. Most Ukrainians work through local agencies that help match them with jobs and help them with their visa interview. Continue reading “Embassy Ukraine in Full Swing with the 2012 Season of Summer Work and Travel”