Volunteers in Ukraine: ‘If we want change, we have to inspire kids’

May 12, 2017 by

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Our project teaching children to speak English is about cultural exchange and solidarity with our neighbours. This is how to reform a country

In February 2014, 100 people – now known as the “heavenly hundred” – were shot dead by riot police during protests in Independence Square, Kiev. The “revolution of dignity” began as an outcry against the then-president Viktor Yanukovych’s rejection of a trade deal with the EU, but it quickly spiralled into violence. The revolution became symbolic of a shift that has turned Ukraine away from Russia and towards Europe.

The three years since then have been among the most difficult in the recent history of Ukraine, with Russian military aggression and enormous economic losses aggravated by corruption. The country needs reform – and it needs solidarity with its neighbours more than ever.

Mustafa Nayem was at the heart of those protests, having posted the original call on Facebook for people to come to the square. Now an MP, he has launched a non-government initiative, GoGlobal, to improve Ukrainians’ English language skills, and GoCamp – a series of residential camps where volunteers from all over the world come to Ukraine to teach children how to speak English.

Take 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, 360km west of Ukraine’s capital Kiev, 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.

GoCamp is as much about cultural awareness and exchange as learning a new language. Spanish volunteers cook paella with the children. Chinese volunteers make paper lanterns. Last year the British staged plays by Shakespeare. Meanwhile every volunteer lives with a host family, to learn more about daily life in Ukraine.

Source: Volunteers in Ukraine: ‘If we want change, we have to inspire kids’ | Voluntary Sector Network | The Guardian

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