Volunteering initiatives build new society in Ukraine

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Children activities with GoCamp

In various initiatives to build a new civil society, the communication between Ukraine and international allies wouldn’t be possible without the English language, writes Kate Rohozhnykova.

Kate Rohozhnykova has been working with the GoCamp project.

Five years ago Ukraine went through the Revolution of Dignity, which became the symbol of the democratic path. As a result a lot of volunteer initiatives appeared and became the most powerful instrument of changes in Ukraine. According to the scale and quantity of the volunteer projects implemented in Ukraine, this country is among top volunteer destinations in the whole region. A lot of volunteers are now focused on social and educational spheres because this is a way to build a new society.

The communication between Ukraine and international allies wouldn’t be possible without English. According to the research of English Proficiency Index the level of English in Ukraine is marked as average, but it took three years to get to 43rd place in the ranking of knowledge of English in the world. 88 countries were mentioned  in this research and best in English are Sweden, the Netherlands, Singapore, Norway and Denmark. The worst English is known in Uzbekistan, Iraq and Libya.

It was difficult to solve English problem in Ukraine because of different factors: Ukraine it’s a post soviet country that wasn’t attractive neither for tourism, nor for investments. But in 2016 volunteer initiative involved volunteers from all over the world to ruin language barriers and to gift Ukraine the chance to change everything.

One of the biggest initiatives that deals with this problem is GoCamp, which is powered by NGO Global Office and has a concrete aim. Their volunteers are people, who not only invest money, but who are inspired to share their knowledge, experience and motivation with Ukrainian children. This volunteering program plays an even more important role for the children of families resettled after the conflict in the east of the country. Schools located close to the frontline take part in GoCamp East, which takes place between July and August, and brings children from the conflict zone to camps in Kyiv. They are children of war and over the last three years, their lives have been lived to a background of shots and explosions.

Volunteers not only work in big cities but also in small villages, where parents cannot afford to enrol their children in language courses. After spending three days in Kyiv learning how to work with kids, volunteers set off for their camp destinations all over Ukraine. And along with this training, they encourage volunteers to share activities they enjoy. Camps focus on one of four areas: Steam (science, technology, engineering, art and maths); civic education; leadership and careers; sports and fitness.

For example 12-year-old Maksym, who joined GoCamp last summer having never seen a foreigner before in his life. He is from the town of Kostopil, 360 km west of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, and was learning English at school but struggled to use it in conversation. After just three weeks at GoCamp, Maksym could chatter away quite happily with Eril, an Indonesian volunteer, while they played football.

Moreover, Luke Jackson – volunteer  from Great Britain was that inspired by Ukraine so he completed his master’s thesis in Kyiv, measuring the image of Ukraine as a tourism destination amongst over 1500 foreign travellers using over 40 indicators and extensive interviews. That’s what he is saying: “Ukraine sits on a cultural and linguistic crossroads, is the perfect balance between the foreign and the familiar, is close enough to Western European cities for a short break but not quite a weekend and has long since been recognised as the historical middle ground between East and West.”

Ukraine confidently integrates in Europe, having more international allies. Each volunteer who comes in Ukraine can make sure that Ukraine goes global.

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