Volunteering In Ukraine: ‘If We Want Change, We Have To Inspire Kids’

KIEV, Ukraine -- In February 2014, 100 people – now known as the “heavenly hundred” – were shot dead by riot police during protests in Independence Square, Kiev.


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

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.

In summer 2017, GoGlobal is planning to bring 1,000 foreign volunteers to more than 600 schools, to teach 100,000 pupils all over the country.

It is our aim that by 2020 all children aged 10 to 15 will speak English.

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 Kiev learning how to work with kids, volunteers set off for their camp destinations all over Ukraine.

And along with this training, we 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.

We want our volunteers to teach children how to become leaders, how to think critically and how to be tolerant and compassionate towards others.

GoCamp 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 Kiev.

They are children of war and over the last three years, their lives have been lived to a background of shots and explosions.

Almost all of them will have lost a relative.

We bring these children together with other kids from around Ukraine to show them that it does not matter where you are from, or what language you speak – they are all happy studying and playing together.

We’re giving these children the chance to realise that there is another life in Ukraine – that there are many cultures and that the world is global.

It is the next generation of Ukrainians who will have to overhaul the country.

If we want to change the world, we have to inspire the kids.

Source: The Guardian

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