Ach, Odessa!

Some of us embarked on a heroin journey to Odessa. Woijteck, Vitor, Sasha and I went to Odessa for a couple of days.

After spending 4 months in Donetsk and hardly traveling at all we were really happy to leave our everyday life and the known environment behind and go out of town.

But the excitement started sooner than expected: First we had some very interesting conversation with the lady at the ticket counter who wasn’t quite familiar with the English keyboard and tried out every single key until she found the one she was looking for. So this part of the journey took longer than expected and unfortunately it was not as easy as we thought to find our platform. Therefore we arrived at our track at 13:31.Our train was scheduled to leave at 13:31.  Woijteck, Vitor and I were running alongside the train, since in Ukraine you have to enter the train in the very wagon of our seat, and suddenly, very slowly the train started to role out of the train station. Us three ran along with it shouting, holding on to the doors and brandishing our tickets. Finally the conductor showed mercy and let down the stairs to the wagon and we were able to jump on the train. This was something that none of us has ever done. Feeling like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible we took our seats, sweating, out of breath, but all in all happy.

When we arrived in Odessa, we were obviously tired and also a little grumpy, though that changed as soon as we entered the city. It was the first time for Vitor and me to see this place and we fell in love. And the thought that we could have stayed in Odessa for all this time, really upsetted us.

But after all, when we arrived in Donetsk a couple of days later we were happy to be back. It is after all our home here.

Bye for now,

Maggie

Intergenerational Dialogue

As promised part 2 of the Project – Presentation. Today I want to introduce you to the team of the Intergenerational Dialogue project. We have a lot of people working in Youth Centers, Schools or also in centers for people with disabilities.

Vita

What is Intergenerational Dialogue for you?

For me this is an opportunity to get to understand the different generations. I really enjoy talking to women of different ages and seeing their point of view. I can see that although we are all from different generations, that actually we have a lot incommon.

What do you do to promote the idea of your project?

For me it is all about bringing the different generations together. I try to work with children as well as with elderly people. I for instance try also to have some cultural exchange in my project. For instance I exchange recipes from different countries. Since I think that global exchange is one of the most important topics for the youngsters of today I want to open the minds of the elder generations to this idea. Maybe then they will understand each other. Understanding always brings people together.

What is your aim?

For me my aim is to have personal development. I want to be able to see what I am good at, if I am as good as I thought and of course to bring people together. But that is obvious, isn’t it?

Kristina

What is Intergenerational Dialogue for you?

For me Intergenerational Dialouge is mainly about experience. Nowadays young people and old ones do not communicate at all. For me it is important to talk to an older generation. I learned so much from my grandparents and  I couldn’t imagine not talking to them. So to summ this all up for me Intergenerational Dialogue means exchanging experience.

What do you do to promote the idea of your project?

I work in Youth Centers, where a lot of grandparents or parents wait for their grandchilderen or children. So while they are waiting for the youngsters to finish their activities, I talk to them. We also talk about several topics, but also I try to show them that young people are worth listening to.

What is your aim?

My aim is to to bring the 3 generations together and also to make them accept each other.

Vitor

What is Intergenerational Dialogue for you?

For me Intergenerational Dialouge eand bringing people together. I also work with Babushkas which is baseically enough Intergenerational Dialouge for me. As soon as they start to communicate with me or also other volunteers they see that it is possible to really talk honestly with a younger generation. I take the dialogue part very seriously. It should be an exchange of knowledge.

What do you do to promote the idea of your project?

My work varies a lot. I have speaking clubs in school where I promote the idea of intergenerational exchange. I also want to promote global awarness, this is what i do with the kids mostly. But as I said before I also work with the elderly. There I try to communicate with them.

I also organized a football event, where the different generations played against each other. This is just an example about how I try to bring them together.

What is your aim?

My aim is pretty standard: Being able to end my project, saying that I brought the different generations together.

I hope that you have a better understanding of what we are doing in the Debate Center now.

All the best,

Maggie

Presentation of our Projects (Part 1)

As some of you know currently we have two different projects in the Donetsk Youth Debate Center. This and the follow up blog will be presenting these projects.

Bring European Awareness to Ukraine

Axel

What is European Awareness for you?

For me European Awareness is the understanding of different cultures, that nit necessarily means that somebody has to have a broad knowledge of the different European cultures and countries or appreciation of such, but rather the ability to respect and to handle cultural differences, for me that particularly means the differences in between Sweden and Ukraine. Although Ukraine is a part of Europe for me, it is definitely a very different and weird part of our continent.

What do you do to promote European Awareness?

I think that the knowledge of foreign languages opens a lot of doors. Here many people think that you can really only know one language, but I beg to differ. This is also something I try to teach my students. I also conduct singing clubs, there I focus on intercultural exchange, mainly through discussions.

What do you want to achieve until the end of your project?

Well, I want to show and prove to teachers, students and also parents that there is another way to teach English: in an informal and relaxed way. And that this works just as well or even better than the formal education here in Ukraine.

Maggie

What is European Awareness for you?

When I think of European Awareness I think of understanding, understanding different cultures, different traditions, different points of view and so on.  European Awareness for me is linked to European values, such as equality or freedom of speech. All of these ideas already exist in the Ukraine but it takes someone different, someone like me, to bring it to the surface.

What do you do to promote European Awareness?

I particularly focus on human rights education. When I talk to kids, students or adults I can see that there is a lot to do here until people in Ukraine have reached a state of awareness. As I said before it already exists, they can hear it on the radio or watch it on TV. What they need is to think about controversial topics, because I think they do not, or way too little. They need to heard different opinions or listen to statements to actively make up their mind. And that’s were I play my part. I try to confront them and basically tease it our of them. Once they think about these topics, not only during my lessons but also at home, I have been successful. I don’t want to force my opinions on them, so I only make them think. This is how I promote European Awareness.

What do you want to achieve until the end of your project?

My goal is to make a difference. Sounds  way too cheesy, but it’s true. As I said before I want to know that I made people think. Even if there is no outcome, or not the outcome I am hoping for, it is important to me that they at least considered different opinions or thought about their own opinion. This is enough of a difference to me.

Jorge

What is European Awareness for you?

I think European Awareness is, being aware that you are not the only one country, but that all of us, whether you are from Spain, Sweden, Austria or Ukraine, all of us are related. We all have to deal with the same problems, the crisis, poverty, education and so on. You cannot live isolated from your neighboring states, but rather work with them to solve each others issues. I think that that’s a great advantage of the European Union. Since the Ukraine is surrounded by European Union countries it is definitely important to work on European Awareness in this country.

What do you do to promote European Awareness?

I introduce the people here to different countries, not only mine but also the ones of other volunteers. I introduce them to different cultures, traditions, languages and different ways to think, through presentations, speaking clubs and language courses. For me knowledge is key, the more you know the more accepting, respectful and therefore more likely to at some point be part of the European Union you are.

What do you want to achieve until the end of your project?

For me EVS is not only about me, it is about sharing my knowledge with others. It is amazing to have a possibility to have a cultural exchange. My aim is to open the eyes of people here. They should be able to perceive everything with knowledgeable eyes. They should be able to work together on one big goal, for many it is to become part of the European Union. This is what I want to do. I want them to, when they have the possibility to join this great institution to be ready.

 

MidTerm – Woop Woop

For me my project is already past halftime which really is amazing to me. I feel like I just arrived and I haven’t accomplished enough to be going home in 2 months.

So thank god we had our organized MidTerm Training, which was amazing. First of all we had the chance to meet some of our friends from the OnArrival Training again, second we could share our experience and talk about problems with other volunteers who may have encountered a similar situation, but also with very qualified trainers who lend us their ears. It was so great to be able  to get in touch with all of them and everybody had a fun time.

My OnArrival Training was in the Carpathians, so near to Lviv, which is located in the very west of Ukraine. This time we went to Kyiv and spend our time in a nice hotel 40 min away from the center in the green surrounding of Kyiv. This time we got Hatas (small little bungalows where we stayed in groups of 4 people). It was very nice to have our private place to sleep, although we didn’t exactly get a lot of sleep. We were staying up late talking, playing Werwolf (similar game to Mafia) and simply  listening to music and dancing. It was such a great and educational training that it definitely gave me back some energy and made me want to finally change my project for the better.

I really enjoyed every single moment of it. But when I returned I was even more excited. I realized that I would have to put a lot of work and effort into changing my project and what I am working at but now I can see that it is worth it.

Bye for now,

Maggie

Family Business

A lot is changing in our little 2nd family lately. And I want to say goodbye to three of our fellow family members:

Fabien, our French volunteer, who worked like me on the European Awareness Project, finished his EVS in the end of February. He was working in serveral schools in Donetsk and the near surrounding. His main goal was to promote human rights, like gender equality or democracy. He also conducted many French lessons. He also created an online blog, where he shows his amazing talent in drawing cartoons and making everybody laugh. Although sometimes it might has been hard to understand him (French accents are very particular) he definetely never faild to brighten up the day of all of us volunteers.

 

Ania, one of our Polish volunteers, has been working in the Debate Center since summertime. She has been responsible for our internet presence, so baseically she has been creating events on VK or Facebook, inviting our local community to join us and she has been working in the office. She also took the movie night to a whole new level. Every Thursday our office was bursting with people who wanted to watch Anias amazing choices.  Finding a suitable replacement is going to be a tough choice. Ania also had a theatre group in one of our schools where she even performed a small play with them. Also Ania (my roommate by the way) is beloved by all for her great cooking skills and her hospitality. Not for nothing we call her „Mama“. She definetely took care of all of us when we first arrived and were more like toddlers than responsible adults. Her high Russian level enables us to communicate to locals much better (yes, over the phone). All in all there is only one word to discribe our lovely Ania, who will be done with her project by the end of March,: Mama!

And last but definetely not least:

Kamil, also one of the Polish Volunteers, left us in the middel of March. He needed to finish his project earlier as planned for his education. We were all really sad to hear the news since Kamil was one of the steady and very supportive ones of our group. Somehow he always knew what to do. He was working on the project of Intergenerational Dialouge, like most of our fellow volunteers. His speciality was Origami, which he mastered and not only that but also he infected many of us with his love for handmade paper flowers. Since his English level was remarkably high he also went and used this amazing skills on the children in several schools and youth centers all over town.

 

But I will stop blabbering on now and let you all go into the world outside of the internet. Let me just say that all three of them were so unique and speciall, and that they will definetely be missed by all of us who remain.

Love,

Maggie

How to survive a Mashrutka ride

When you come to Donetsk you will have to use a Maschrutka, a sort of Minibus, but this task is harder than it sounds. Here are some Tips to make you get through a Mashrutka ride:

  1. Do not stay in the front. As soon as you have paid the driver, silently of course, try to crawl into the darkest corner in the back to avoid any complications. Otherwise you would have to pass money, pay or simply have human interaction and who likes that?
  2. If an elderly lady enters you have to give up your seat immediately otherwise people will tell you to do and then tell you why they think that the youth of today has no standards or behavior anymore. And since you don’t speak Russian you can not defend yourself. Plus any reason that people could shout at you should be avoided by all costs. They do like to do it anyway.
  3. Pretend to be super busy reading or receiving text, reading a book, listening to music or be completely concentrated at the blocks of houses passing outside of the window. As soon as somebody thinks you are occupied they will not disturb you with tasks like passing money or returning it.
  4. When the time comes to exit this particular kind of public transport try to find a button with a horn on it. This one will make it easier for you since you won’t have to explain to the driver that you would like to exit this marvelous vehicle. If you cannot find a horn , just murmur something with that resembles what your roommate has told you before and just sign like a crazy person to the door. At some point he will have mercy with this pitiful creature, called an EVS volunteer, and he is going to let you get out of his car.
  5. If all of this doesn’t work just go back to your dark corner and cry silently while you watch your station passing by.

I do hope that this was useful, have fun and ride Mashrutkas.

Ride on fellas,

Maggie

Job shadowing

From 20th January to 3rd February job shadowing between Irpin’s and Donetsk’s volunteers took place. During the first week my humble self went to Irpin (small city near Kiev) to get acquainted with working environment of our colleagues living there. In the same time Malin went from Irpin to Donetsk. After one week we switched places and Ania from Donetsk went together with Malin to Irpin and Denitsa travelled with me to Donetsk. Purpose of this job shadowing was grasping the difference in working environments between cities and projects themselves. First of all Irpin is a small city near Kyiv, surounded with nature and Donetsk on the other hand, big city, capital of industrial region with lots of monumental buildings. The other aspecst, EVS projects and characteristics of organizations. In Donetsk we have 14 people focused on 4 different projects, e.g. “Bringing European awareness to Ukraine” or “Intergenerational dialogue”, while Irpin’s volunteers are only two girls working on Euroclub, classes with disabled kids and in sanatorium. Let’s get to know, what do they think about visiting other city and working with different people:

 

Denitsa Dimitrova

(place of EVS: Irpin, nationality: Bulgarian)

  1. What was most surprising for you in Donetsk?

You spend a lot time travelling! That’s something unusual for me. The other thing is that there is so many volunteers in here, which is nice. What is more, your job is more strict than ours, you have evaluations every weekend, also meetings with mentors are more regular. It’s hard for me to say if it’s better or worse, it’s just different.

2. How can you describe differences in working environments?

It’s normal to be different because the projects are quite dissimilar and engage different type of people. For example in Irpin we work predominantly with young people with special needs and given the fact that neither of us two speaks the local language well, most of the time conducting a conversation is the biggest challenge for us. The volunteers in Donetsk speak relatively good Russian so they can progress faster. Also working with adults, which you do in Donetsk but in Irpin we don’t, also requires different approaches and I like it this way because you have diversity in your schedule.

3.What do you have in Irpin, what you miss in Donetsk and what thing from Donetsk would you miss in Irpin?

Honey and milk straight from babushkas on the streets (which is not true, because we also have them – writer annotation). You also have more free time activities in Donetsk, such as cinemas, circus or stadium. However, we are close to Kiev so we can also find something. And of course doing shopping is so much easier in Donetsk.

4. Do you thing that job shadowing like this is useful practice?

In my opinion, yes. It’s not only beneficial for us, volunteers, but also for our organizations. Especially when you take into consideration, that your Debate Centre is working with volunteers for some time and we are first volunteers in Irpin.

 

Ania Szel?gowska

(city of EVS: Donetsk, nationality: Polish)

  1. What was most surprising for you in Irpin?

Living in a forest and with landlady. It was really something totally different going from big city like Donetsk to really peaceful and quiet environment of Irpin. I was really enjoying this serenity and walking to every workplace. Experience of living with landlady was also quite interesting, it gives an opportunity to know more about people’s attitude on everyday basis.

2. How can you describe differences in working environments?

In schools it’s pretty much the same as in Donetsk, however in church it was something new for me. I really liked handcrafts workshops with children and mutual language learning. As far as organization’s work is concerned there are a lot of differences. In Irpin they don’t have thing like ‘office day’, because it’s not needed at all. They also don’t hold any meeting on weekly basis, like our Donetsk’s movie clubs or Saturday presentations.

3. What do you have in Donetsk, what you miss in Irpin and what thing from Irpin would you miss in Donetsk?

Like I said, I will definitely miss the nature, which is in Irpin. Of course, you can find plenty of green places in Donetsk, but either they are some parks or you have to go outside the city to find a nice spot. And in Irpin you just open your door or window to breath with fresh air.  On the other hand, I really miss having people around in Irpin. After short stay there, I appreciated our volunteers’ team even more than I did before.

4. Do you thing that job shadowing like this is useful practice?

Yes, in many aspects. Starting from organization work, through places in which you work and ending on train travels. For me time spent in train was really nice. We met people who were really interesting and I could practice my translator skills, as Malin doesn’t speak any Russian.

Malin Sanstr?m

(place of EVS: Irpin, nationality: Swedish)

  1. What was most surprising for you in Donetsk?

Well, as far as the city is concerned I have to admit that public transport. First of all, in Irpin I walk a lot, because the distances are not so big and here u have to use marshrutkas, buses or trolleys, which are always full or even too full and sometimes u can spend lots of time just waiting.  Also it seems that everything is far away and you have to spend a lot of time just travelling. Secondly, the city itself is a little bit dirty and if there is no snow and no sunshine it looks a little bit depressing.

2.How can you describe differences in working environments?

Like I said, half of working time you have to spend in public transport. But basically kids and people who I was working with are pretty much the same.

3. What do you have in Irpin, what you miss in Donetsk and what thing from Donetsk would you miss in Irpin?

In Irpin we have lots of nature, trees surrounding us from everywhere and this is definitely what I miss in Donetsk. Basically, I prefer smaller cities and I don’t see myself doing my project in capital city of Donbas, however I really do miss people in Irpin. We don’t have opportunity to meet people our age there (because they do not speak English), so I am really glad that I can meet so many new volunteers here.

4. Do you thing that job shadowing like this is useful practice?

Yes, of course. It is nice opportunity to see another way of living, especially if there are such differences in working place. You can appreciate more things in your town, it broadens your mind and you catch more of Ukraine.

 

Wojciech Frydrych

(city of EVS: Donetsk, nationality: Polish)

For me, as an organizer of this project it was really great experience. Making this project itself gave me opportunity to improve my skills in organizing. I also strongly believe, that it will help our Hosting Organizations in process of networking and exchanging information and experience about EVS. Another great aspect of this job shadowing was travelling to and from Kiev, which gave me unique opportunity to make bond with Ukrainians, as people speaking different language always attract their attention. Furthermore, I could experience living in environment I couldn’t have experienced in Donetsk, by this I mean small city surrounded by nature. As far as job itself is concerned, one of the best parts was attending Polish classes in one of the schools. I was really surprised, because for most of children it was first contact with Polish native speaker. Another thing worth mentioning was taking part in Euroclub. This was really inspiring experience, watching kids coming to school on Saturday to broaden their mind in the topic of European values. To sum up, I strongly recommend such projects to other volunteers and organizations, because it is excellent way to cooperate on formal and informal level as well.

 

Wojtek

 

 

How to survive an Ukrainian Winter

May I introduce a new Blog series: How to survive…

This will help you to survive your stay in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia or any other freezing country.

When you are a central European like me, or just used to a normal climate, you will get surprised by mother nature and her brutal force to unleash winter from one day to another. So here some basic tips gathered over this past winter:

  1. Tea, well not only will you drink tea in spring summer and autumn but also surprise surprise in winter. But at this time of the year you will finally realize why this drink is so damn popular in Ukraine.
  2. Try avoid walking. As a volunteer this one particularly hurts since saving money is THE rule to life by while you are doing your EVS but I am sure it is better to spend 2 hrn more than freezing to death.
  3. Eat,  eat a lot. If you have more fat to burn your body will stay warm longer and definitely try to avoid going outside on an empty stomach. Plus when waiting for buses can take literally hours  an empty stomach is the last thing you want to have to worry about.
  4. Thick clothes, Beauty is not that important. A lesson hard learned for a “fashion victim” like me. Well looking slender, good and nice doesn’t keep you warm. Also a moral conscious  will not keep you from having frost bites. Get a warm and thick coat, and do not consider the style. It has to keep you warm, also fur is just the best way to shelter yourself from the cold. There is a reason why these coats are very popular in this edge of the world.
  5. And if everything else fails there is only one option: Vodka, warms from the inside out. Perfection. Now you know why they like that stuff so much.

So I hope that this could be helpful. Hey, If an Austrian can survive Ukrainian winter, so can you.

Soon,

Maggie

Two shadows of volunteers

From 20th January to 3rd February exchange of volunteers or so called ‘job shadowing’ took place. The mini-project involved four people and two organizations. Of course, the first one was Donetsk Youth Debate Centre, the second one – Community Foundation Irpin. Denitsa, Ania, Malin and me spent one week in different city to see another side of volunteer’s work. As our projects differ so much we could experience something new for all of us. If you want to know what participants of this exchange think about it, visit our blog in nearest day and find out what they said to the camera!

Wojtek

Maggie’s “Perfect” Russian

Last Autumn Ania, Sasha (a local volunteer) and I went to Kharkiv, a city close to Donetsk.

We started our journey at Saturday morning with one of the fast trains installed for the Euro 2012 and after a for Ukrainians short train ride of 4 hours we arrived at our destination. Kharkiv, the city of universities and former capital of the Ukraine, enchanted me. There is an active restaurant, bar and cafe scene, nice museums and it is much more international than Donetsk. They actually had Austrian beer!!

After intense sightseeing and a lovely stop at a bookstore, always a dangerous task with me, we stepped into Puzata Hata, an amazing Ukrainian fast food restaurant. There I showed off my breathtaking Russian skills. And thanks to Sasha, who taped all of it you can be part of this astonishing conversation.

 Bye for now,
Maggie