"Congratulations you have been chosen as a finalist of the Professional Fellows Program and you will be spending 6 weeks in the USA working at a NGO". A summary of the message I received on a cold winter day, which gave me even bigger goose bumps, as I knew that tremendous possibility awaits, which will broaden my horizon and open new opportunities.
Since quite a young age, I was convinced that traveling and understanding different attitudes of people is a very welcoming feature especially if you work for the sake of the community and development. I visited a lot of countries in Europe in order to see the approaches, interesting ideas and gather new knowledge, so I can build a greater society in my Ukraine.
|Taras, Elizabeth, and Karin at the office on |
International Vyshyvanka Day.
Upon arriving here, in Washington and later Chicago and Evanston, my first feeling was, "I am in a movie." I was curious to explore each day and each second, as a lot of things indeed were different or at least as they are not usually done or made in Europe.
The first and major discovery to me was the community and civil society here. There is a huge amount of organizations and people who know a lot about charity and philanthropy and usually support different events by volunteering or donating money. It all starts with proper education and right attitude at early age throughout life. Through Allowance for Good, I was able to attend classes at Niles North High School, Northwestern University, and Loyola University to discover exciting curricula about civic engagement and community development. I made a few presentations on the political situation in Europe and Ukraine in particular. The high school students were really eager to get to know some of the aspects of social, educational, and political life there. To some of them it was a true revelation to learn about the situation in Crimea and war on the east of Ukraine.
I met bright people who are so willing to enhance their level of knowledge in these spheres. In Ukraine we seriously lack such programs and strategies for the society, and ideas written in my notebook will help me to make some of them real.
Another issue in Ukraine is that we have quite a different environment and recent history. People of Ukraine, because of living under a soviet regime which worshiped state or ruling party rather than people and communities, shaped the attitude of people towards common goals and better well-being. Now, after recent revolutions and uprisings of the nation, we can build upon that as we became much stronger, united, and passionate about social change.
My knowledge benefited a lot from the work with the incredible team of my host organization, Allowance for Good – Elizabeth, Aimee and Karin, who helped me to look upon issues of NGO work and youth programs from a different perspective and approach, which can definitely bring more results for the community. Job shadowing them was a real pleasure and I hope my fellowship will create new possibilities for them as well. For that, we started working on mutual grant proposals, so in the future our cooperation can grow stronger and our activities even more international. The first project is scheduled to be implemented this fall and will be concentrating on empowering youth from Lviv and Sykhiv districts with knowledge on social responsibility and community building. Kids will also have a chance to create and realize a social project of their interest, as well as a chance to work on identity building of their school.
My stay in the USA wouldn’t be the same if I wasn’t also lucky enough to be hosted by the Cernek family to explore the lifestyle of American households and daily life. There a lot of things about culture and cuisine I will be taking home with me, such as pancakes on weekends ☺
I would like to thank American Councils
, and especially Allowance for Good for an amazing opportunity to get a first-hand experience for future work I can bring to my community.
That’s would be all for now. I don’t say good-bye – I say welcome to new possibilities and Ukraine is awaiting each American to visit.