I’m writing this entry three days before I leave my site and for that reason this update will be more emotional than the reflective blog found below. Due to an outbreak of swine flu, Ukrainian schools have been under quarantine and were therefore closed from November 2nd and only starting again on November 23rd. This was a rather sour way for Group 33 to end their service, with many volunteers’ departure date during the quarantine, preventing the proper farewell needed for students and teachers.
So after travelling to our final conference in the Carpathian Mountains, then taking part in a weekend training session with the new arrivals of Group 37, I sat in my apartment for three weeks with not much to do. Fortunately, I had one final week before leaving my site, although it has been difficult to show up after a month of not seeing my students and announce that I’d be leaving in a week.
This week has been rather difficult, as I explained to my students, Ukraine is my second home. I’ve lived here for two years and although it will be easy to an extent to go home, it will be difficult to leave here. Inspired by the always creative Brad Luckhardt, I decided to organize small student projects this week to discuss school life, families, and culture in Ukraine and my town. I have been recording these presentations all week and can’t wait to edit them and show them to friends, family, and students in the U.S.
Although it is often easy to feel unproductive, this week I believe I’ve felt the impact of my work through and through. Watching students speak and give presentations who were initially frightened or simply unable to speak to me made me realize how much they’ve grown as pupils and people. Certainly Americans do not have the most flattering reputation abroad, and I’m proud to say that I worked my hardest to improve how Ukrainians perceive us.
My school often refers to me as “Our American” or “Our Mr. Alan” which is a common occurrence throughout Ukraine. I’m not sure if the use of “our” is cultural or linguistic, but it clearly shows the development of a relationship over the past two years.
So on the eve of Group 33’s departure, though most have already left, I wanted to share some statistics given to us. Group 33’s impact on Ukraine includes:
6,000 Ukrainian students taught by Peace Corps Volunteers
200 Ukrainian teachers directly collaborated with PCVs
2,000 Ukrainian teachers trained by PCVs
Participation in local, regional, and national Olympiad
18 resource centers and 10 internet centers funded and organized
70 camps organized and implemented
And here are some of the things I did:
65 teachers trained in the sphere or HIV/AIDS prevention and Awareness
Organized two community events, a school dance and rock concert
Participated as a judge in the Belovodsk and National English Olympiad
Personally organized two camps and participated in five camps total
Organized a pen pal program with an American school
Obtained English books for my school
Worked directly with 6 Ukrainian teachers and over a hundred students
Focused heavily on Environmental education
Russian speaking ability of advanced low
And of course the absorption of Ukrainian culture, history, traditions, pop culture, and more
I only wanted to share these things, 1) for those who haven’t been able to follow all my other blogs or updates, and 2) feel a little better about my experience. I always knew I would never leave my service early and would stay for the entire 27 months, but at the same time I did not want to simply stick it out. Sometimes reflecting and stating such things helps one realize their work and of course feel a little proud.
I hope you’ve enjoyed following the blog and reading about a place which receives less attention than it deserves. Ukraine is now and always will be my second home.
And to close, the following text was written by a ninth grade student, Tonya Bondarenko. I asked students a few questions to keep in mind this week and she went the extra yard and wrote down her thoughts. I haven’t altered the text and believe students should always have ownership over their work and to be proud of their mistakes as much as their achievements.
1. What did you learn from me?
I learnt that every English lesson can be interesting, useful and fascinating. I could to know more about USA not from books or films, but from real American, who always answered our questions. He told us what books had he read, what films had he watched. He played the guitar for us; we watched films about nature together. Once a week we tried to gather and spent a time together. We talked on different topics, discussed some problems, made projects. I think we can learn an optimistic soul, kindly, curiously, and friendly character from Mr. Alan.
2. What did I learn from you (Ukrainians) while here?
As for me, I think he could learn some Ukrainian words and phrases. He always was interested in Ukrainian teens’ tastes, hobbies, spending free time and attitude to life, love, wars, and other important things. So, he knows more about Ukrainian pupils. I think it was intresting for hm to know more about our culture and customs, about our holidays and our famous people.
Mr. Alan lived in our town for two years, he went on travels in our country, he spend all time with Ukrainians. As for me, it was good time for him and he can be proud of these years, because we had a really nice time with him.
3. What did you think about Americans two years ago? And now? Did your idea of Americans change?
Honestly, I think that Americans are lazy and naïve people. But when I made the acquaintance with Mr. Alan I understood that Americans can be open, helpful, and merry people. Mr. Alan told us about his family and his friends very much. They are friendly, polite people. Americans are not worse than we are. They are just different but we have much similar. I changed my opinion about Americans and now I even have some friends from USA which I like to communicate with.
I’ll miss our friendly atmosphere, our amazing lessons, our good wonderful teacher who always knew what we wanted to do. I’ll miss our summer holidays, which we spent with Mr. Alan. We played sport games, listened to his playing guitar, took part in different competitions and spoke about everything we want. We went for a walk with out class near the river, had picnics and did other nice things.
I’ll miss Mr. Alan because we always found things, we can speak about. He is a nice person, and as for me, he became a good teacher and a perfect friend for all of us.
How can I not be grateful for the last two years after reading words like that from a student?