Тhese are the words of Malala YuzafariI. Truly believe in the power behind Malala’s words. Education is probably the best tool we have to build the world we want. And with that mind-set I embarked in my East Ukrainian adventure! Having already spent 10 months in central Ukraine, I got the opportunity to take part in the EU Aid Volunteers program thanks to MONDO and Postup with Vostok SOS as a senior education expert in Severodonetsk.
Soon my activities began to expand, and what was just classes in the beginning, rapidly became very interesting meetings and friendships. I was able to collaborate with three schools in Severodonetsk. My role there was very diverse: I basically became a mentor and a coach. We made activities and workshops using creativity and informal education methods in all of them. The topics were about different aspects of life: active citizenship, politics, human rights, culture, arts, science, environment, etc.
I tried to make each lesson as personalised as possible to adapt it to each student, so that they could develop their skills and passions (this is very important especially when working with teenagers since they have very different skills, fears, behaviours, etc.) This could help them to really develop their potential and understand what they can do to contribute to the community and of course to have a healthy and positive lifestyle.
In addition, we organised Spanish and English language clubs. Although the main goal of these activities was of course to increase the students’ knowledge of these languages and to share cultural topics in a similar way as in the schools, these lessons also became a gathering point and a place where many ideas were shared between the participants. Since the group was of mixed ages the results were great. The participants were more proficient on teamwork, planning, public speaking, and creativity. They also increased their sense of community and their willingness to be an active part of it.
Moreover, we got an opportunity to organise special events in collaboration with local volunteers, whose aims were to show the differences and similarities between Ukraine and Spain in an informative and funny way (cooking, dancing, singing, etc.) This approach became extremely popular and got the attention of the local media. Of course, a big number of participants were ready to learn and have fun!
Could I ever imagine I would have become a Salsa teacher? Master Chef? Actor? Or to learn dances from faraway places like Pakistan or Mexico?
Well, in Severodonetsk it seems everything is possible! I was able to make tons of new friends from Ukraine and many different countries. Even though the shadow of war is looming behind, they showed me the wonders of these lands, incredible places, funny and interesting people, you name it. There is a hidden treasure behind every corner.
I have to say, even if 5 months seem to be a short period of time, the willingness of people to take full advantage of the opportunities was incredible, and therefore we were able to create a big impact together and bring a little bit of the “Spanish vibe” to the plains of Donbas.
A lot of people ask me if Ukraine is dangerous. I can say that YES, it is probably the most dangerous country in the world: once you come you will never want to leave again. You will fall in love with its historical traditions, culture and of course its people.
I am more than ever willing to work together as a big team step by step with all the amazing people I met along the way, both Ukrainian and other foreigners. As the quote says, actually we are changing the world, and bringing joy, happiness and light to people´s life. At least, as they did with mine. Thank you everyone for being part of this journey and get ready for more and better! До зустрічі!