Volunteering in Ukraine

 GO camp in Ukraine

“If you want to change the world, inspire a kid.”

There are no shortages of kids in Ukraine—and the world—who need inspiration.

I grew up in a white provincial part of America that saw very little international influence. I remember getting excited about the rare occasions when I met foreigners. And family trips to New York City widened my eyes to a world full of different cultures.

These interactions left me inspired.

Kids need positive role models. Not just role models that come from their hometown, but also role models from the outside world. There are now movements in Ukraine bringing foreigners to the doorsteps of children here. For many Ukrainian kids, this is their first introduction to the world.

 Ukraine is your volunteer destination #1

I met with two very interesting women recently in Kyiv, both young and well-educated Ukrainians. Both passionate about helping to build the most valuable resource in the country: the youth.

They told me about the nonprofit organization they’re working for called: Go Global.

The overriding goal is to deliver language skills and outside knowledge to help inspire and connect Ukrainian’s youth to the world.

The group’s mission is to mentor 1.5 million children by 2020.

Here’s how it works: a foreigner comes to Ukraine and the organization takes care of everything. They set the foreigner up with: a host family, copious amounts of local culture, and access to the schools where they can share their knowledge and inspire children.

No teaching experience is needed; grammar is not the focus. Exposing kids to other languages and cultures are.

Volunteers might first think they’re the ones who are giving. But from my experience, they’ll be the ones receiving.

 Children in GO camp

In a way it’s the classic hero’s journey. Hero leaves their normal world (i.e., Germany, USA, Singapore, etc.), and goes into the nebulous unknown of the Ukrainian countryside. The hero learns valuable life lessons full of treasure and wisdom, and brings the knowledge back to their ordinary world—only to positively use those lessons throughout their lifetime.

This happened to me last summer when I lived in the Ukrainian countryside for six weeks. I learned a lot about life and myself; Ukraine is a wonderful teacher. And I know at the end of my life, the time with my Ukrainian family will be one of my brightest experiences that will flash in front of me.

It’s one of those experiences that has no monetary meaning, it’s too rich to ever be bought—connections at this deeper level can only be felt.

 Children & GO camp in Ukraine

Ukraine is a country that is mostly misunderstood by the outside world. It’s not Europe, it’s not Russia, and it’s not the Middle East… Ukraine is its own thing.  The country has its arms wide open in the sense that it’s curious about foreigners, new influences, and new ideas.

Most foreigners are concerned about safety in Ukraine, and rightfully so; war is often the only information that leaves the country.

The objective data in regards to civilian killings reads like so: in 2017 there were 650 homicides in Chicago. In Donbas—the conflict area of the country—there were 478. This isn’t to discredit anybody’s death or the trauma that comes from war; it’s only to highlight that more people died from murder in one large US city, than civilians who died from war in Ukraine.

So no—foreigners that are reading this—you won’t be gunned down upon landing at the international airport.

My self-made journey into the countryside took lots of preparation and planning. Go Global does everything for the foreigner, so they can step right in from their home country without any friction and little pre-planning.

For Ukrainians: the more bridges that are made to the world, the more the world will care about your country. Your children need this for a better future.

For Foreigners: get out of your comfort zone and help kids who want your help. It will not just feel good; it will mark something deeply inside of you. You might think you’ll be the one giving, but I can speak from experience, the Ukrainian countryside will give you something special you’ll have for the rest of your life.

If you want to change the world, inspire a kid….

 Happy children in GO camp T-shirts

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