Last Saturday, my counterpart and I organized a seminar to give Melitipol students and teachers some lessons on civic education. We received a SPA (Small Project Assistance) grant from USAID which helped us get the things we needed to make our civic education project a success. That included office supplies (paper, markers, tape, notebooks, folders...etc), a projector and a screen, a laptop, and a video camera. While these things are great for projects, they are just that—things and things don't get us as far as the exchanging of ideas does. At these seminars, I saw students and teachers rise above the material world and use common sense and creativity to create potential and doable volunteer projects for Melitopol's community.
We split up the kids and the grownups. Students learned about leadership and participated in an active discussion about volunteerism with a living library (thanks to my dear fellow volunteers!). The adults stuck with Cynden and Logan for Project Design and Management and Fundraising training. After lunch, we did group work and had students create a potential volunteer project, with the guidance of their teachers. During this activity, I noticed that the students were more active than their adult counterparts. I also noticed that they had in their lexicon words like attainable, sustainable, and realistic.
When everyone was finished creating their project poster, we moved to the hall so the students could represent their posters and talk about their project. Everyone walked around, listened, and voted on their favorite. The winning project was called "Discover Yourself." It was a hobby club taught by volunteer students. Maybe this is not the most original idea, but they wrote down their goals and objectives, outlined steps for implementing their project, discussed potential fundraising ideas and a plan for future growth. This is very promising.
Ukraine is a great country, but it can be confusing at times. It can make you feel like you're being pulled in multiple directions: East vs. West, Ukrainian vs. Russian, "I miss the soviet union; The roads were taken care of..." vs. "The young people don't know how bad it was; They don't know that we had to eat dirt." I saw some of this at the seminars, the tension between the new generation and the older one. But it had a kind of balance. The fact that they participated showed that they care. Almost everyone tried and contributed something interesting to all of our discussions and activities and this made me happy.
At the end, I thanked the teachers for showing their students how to be good leaders. Some students came up to me afterwards to say that they really enjoyed the seminar. These are the students who will lead Ukraine into its bright future...one day.