Community Service and Volunteerism in Ukraine: Supporting Children with Special Needs

Ambassador Pyatt meets with Nadia NGO representatives
Ambassador Pyatt meets with Nadiya NGO representatives

Posted by: Lisa Steinhauer, U.S. Peace Corps Community Development Volunteer (Drohobych, L’vivska Oblast)

Читати українською

The United States is associated with many positive emotions at Nadiya, an NGO focusing on children and youth with special needs located in Drohobych, L’vivska Oblast.  The organization, in operation since 1991, has received various sources of support from U.S. grants as well humanitarian assistance over the years.  In June 2012, the NGO’s relationship with the United States was strengthened further when I arrived as the organization’s first U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer.

Ambassador Pyatt meets with Nadia NGO representatives
Ambassador Pyatt meets with Nadiya NGO representatives

Peace Corps has given both Nadiya and me an exciting opportunity to work together on local community development projects while participating in a cultural exchange program.  Since arriving in Drohobych, I have been overwhelmed with the hospitality and openness of my organization and community.  People consistently take the time to genuinely listen to and understand what I have to say, even with my broken Ukrainian.  They have accepted me into their lives, up to the point that it is not uncommon for me to hear myself referred to as “наша Ліза” (our Lisa).  They even go as far as declaring our organization an extension of the United States on U.S. Holidays as a way for us to celebrate American culture together.

Ambassador Pyatt with Nadia NGO representatives
Ambassador Pyatt with Nadiya NGO representatives

Needless to say, when Nadiya found out that the new U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt would be coming for a visit, the mood was jovial.  Around 20 of Nadiya’s youth with special needs, volunteers, and parents anxiously waited for Ambassador Pyatt outside the building on that Monday morning.  We had practiced saying “Welcome to Nadiya” in English several times before his arrival and it was a proud moment when everyone welcomed the Ambassador in unison.

Ambassador Pyatt graciously listened to information about our projects over the past year, made possible through U.S. support, and congratulated us on our successes.  He then enjoyed a brief tour of our facility and a cup of tea with our youth and volunteers.  Everyone was really encouraged to hear so many positive remarks from the Ambassador. People cannot stop talking about his visit to Nadiya.

From all of us in Drohobych, we would like to say thank you, Ambassador Pyatt, for taking the time to see us at Nadiya!  I am sure this day will be remembered for years to come.

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Former Peace Corps Volunteers Meet in Kyiv to Honor 50th Anniversary

By Douglass Teschner, Peace Corps Country Director in Ukraine

On August 27, 2011, nearly 40 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and family members gathered at the home of Paula Evans and Tom Katen (Kazakhstan 2000-2002) in Kyiv to celebrate the 50th anniversary.  The group collectively served in more than a dozen Peace Corps countries, some as long ago as 1968, including three members of Peace Corps Ukraine group 1 that arrived in 1992.

 In 2012, Peace Corps will celebrate its 20th anniversary in this strategic Eastern Europe country where PCVs are paying an important role in helping Ukrainians transition from its Soviet past.

As a former Peace Corps Volunteer myself (Morocco 1971-73), I spoke briefly on the impact that Peace Corps had on my life and told the group that they are very much part of the Ukraine Peace Corps family. Continue reading “Former Peace Corps Volunteers Meet in Kyiv to Honor 50th Anniversary”

Peace Corps Country Director meets with former President Kravchuk

Posted by: Douglass Teschner, Ukraine Peace Corps Country Director

Douglass Teschner, Ukraine Peace Corps Country Director meets with former President Leonid Kravchuk

On July 13, I had the honor to meet with President Leonid Kravchuk, the first President of Ukraine who, in 1992, signed the initial agreement with President George H. W. Bush inviting Peace Corps to Ukraine.  The meeting was very warm and friendly.  

Mr. Kravchuk told me that, “People who know that I was involved [in establishing Peace Corps in Ukraine] tell me they are thankful for this and speak very warmly about Peace Corps Volunteers.”

The former President said that Peace Corps Volunteers create lifetime relationships in Ukraine.  “The Volunteers are very unselfish and very committed, they do noble work giving themselves

Former President Leonid Kravchuk signes Peace Corps Ukraine’s 50th Anniversary Guest Book

 to their service,”he said.

Mr. Kravchuk also complimented Peace Corps for the selection process that picks committed people and also for the strong management that helps the program to run well. “Volunteerism is a lifelong philosophy,” he added.

 

At the end of the meeting, he signed Peace Corps Ukraine’s 50th Anniversary Guest Book as follows: “Congratulations, Peace Corps! People would like to express their gratitude to you for your attitude towards Ukrainians. Good luck to you!”

This being the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps, this was a fitting time to reconnect with the former President who played such a positive role in bringing Peace Corps to Ukraine 19 years ago.

Borscht recipe

Posted by: Danny Zawacki, Group 39, TEFL PCV in Konotop, Sumska Oblast

This blog entry is written by an American Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) currently living and working in Ukraine. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, an American volunteer program run by the United States Government, the U.S. Embassy hosted a competition among all Ukraine-based PCVs and posting the top three essays. This essay won third place. You can read the first & second place winning essays here.

To learn more about 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps please read E-journal.

To learn more about Peace Corps in Ukraine please visit official website.

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Photo by Yevhen Shylov

They say that every Ukrainian woman makes borscht using her own special recipe. Each pot is unique from the one sitting next to it. There is a basic recipe that includes water, meat, cabbage, onion, carrot, potatoes and seasonings. But every woman gives it her own flair. I remember in training how my host mother, Mama Natasha, had a borscht recipe that used rabbit meat instead of the traditional chicken. The rabbit meat added what I thought to be the perfect flavoring to the pot of borscht, but I’m sure some of my cluster mates would have disagreed with me. They would have told me that their host mom made the best borscht. Even my host father had his own recipe for borscht; I don’t think it was as good as the rabbit one, but it was still pretty darn good. But that’s just the way borscht recipes are, pretty darn good even if they all happen to be different.  Continue reading “Borscht recipe”

Wake up a bit different

Posted by: Jeremy Borovitz, Group 38, YD PCV in Boyarka, Cherkaska Oblast

This blog entry is written by an American Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) currently living and working in Ukraine. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, an American volunteer program run by the United States Government, the U.S. Embassy hosted a competition among all Ukraine-based PCVs and will be posting the top three over the next week. This essay won second place. You can read the first place winning essay here.

To learn more about 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps please read E-journal.

To learn more about Peace Corps in Ukraine please visit official website.

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Some days I wake up in the middle of the night, and I’ve finally got it. That one magic idea that will transform my small village, the magic pill that, if I just get them to swallow it, will cure all of our problems. I am too excited to reenter my sleeping state.

And other days I hear my alarm beep and fail to move. It’s cold and dark outside of the covers. My self-described brilliant idea has been shrugged off once again, a pill not just too hard to swallow but one that they won’t even send to trial. Outside my covers await another day of little progress.

But most days I wake up even before my 6am alarm, because the roosters next door are crowing and then the dogs start barking and then the tractors start moving. The sounds of a country morning are an obstacle that I have yet to overcome. I sometimes find myself yearning for that urban clatter of my beloved New York, taxis raging and pedestrians bustling and the subway rattling beneath many stories that aren’t my own. Continue reading “Wake up a bit different”

Beyond Certificates and Statistics

This blog entry is written by an American Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) currently living and working in Ukraine. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, an American volunteer program run by the United States Government, the U.S. Embassy hosted a competition among all Ukraine-based PCVs and will be posting the top three over the next week, beginning with the overall winner, followed by the two runners up. Today U.S. Ambassador John F. Tefft swore in the latest group of PCVs at a ceremony at the historic Teacher’s House.

The Peace Corps traces its roots and mission to 1960, when then Senator John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps to promote world peace and friendship.

The Peace Corps’ mission has three simple goals:

  • Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
  • Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  • Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans

Peace Corps volunteers work at the request of other countries to help develop better opportunities for their people, living and working with people in remote villages and burgeoning cities in the developing world. Since 1961, more than 200,000 Americans have served as volunteers in 139 countries, teaching English, helping people improve their families’ health and nutrition, working on HIV/AIDS issues, encouraging entrepreneurs to build their own businesses, introducing new farming techniques to bolster crop yields and protect the environment, and providing leadership to the young.

To learn more about 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps please read E-journal.

To learn more about Peace Corps in Ukraine please visit official websiteContinue reading “Beyond Certificates and Statistics”

Franklin Roosevelt, Murderball, and Free Internet Access: The Rights of the Disabled and the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine

Posted by: Tim Standaert, Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer

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Murderball. This is perhaps the most intriguing movie title I have run across in a long time, though you might be surprised at the content of this particular flick.

The documentary followed the trials and tribulations of the U.S. Men’s Wheelchair Rugby Team, who are in cutthroat competition with their archrivals, the Canadian National Team.  These are not shy, retiring wallflowers, but aggressive and skilled athletes who do want to “murder” their opponents.  I showed the film to a small group of students and university instructors on December 10th at the U.S. Embassy’s weekly movie night at the American Library at National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.  We chose to show the critically acclaimed Murderball as part of our activities in celebration of International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

The United Nations designated December 3rd as International Day of Persons with Disabilities in 1981 to promote respect for the rights of persons with disabilities, increase our understanding of disabilities and encourage inclusion of persons with disabilities, emphasizing the political, economic and social gains to be made through such inclusiveness.  Continue reading “Franklin Roosevelt, Murderball, and Free Internet Access: The Rights of the Disabled and the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine”