We’re Growing People… and we need your help.

I hope you’re not sick of hearing about my grant by now, because we still have a long way to go in fundraising! But we’re definitely headed in the right direction: the original request was for a little more than $2500, and as of today, we only need $1900 more. So a huge THANK YOU goes out to anyone who has contributed to the first $600, its such a great feeling to check the Peace Corps website and see the money donated slowly accumulating to something bigger! So far, 25% of the funds needed for the grant have been donated. 75% to go, and there is still a huge need to be met—are you at all interested in helping us meet this goal?

I was trying to think of ways to encourage you, my readers, to donate without being trite (or annoying with the frequency of my requests for help), when I found this quote:

If you want one year of prosperity, grow grain. If you want ten years of prosperity, grow trees. If you want a hundred years of prosperity, grow people. (Chinese Proverb)

I think this quote is a beautiful way of explaining what we, as Peace Corps Volunteers, are doing in Ukraine. Its not so much that we’re teaching English (although we are), but we’re changing deeply entrenched attitudes about education, about America (and Americans), and even about the world itself.

I’m currently reading an incredibly depressing history of what was Ukraine under Stalin, called Bloodlandsand the title is sadly very historically accurate. Ukrainians truly suffered under Stalin and the USSR, and as a result, their national identity is quite pessimistic and they have very low expectations about life and the potential for achievement. This is a huge difference for me as an American, because Americans are raised on slogans like “if you can dream it, you can do it” and “anything is possible.” I think the best way to highlight this contrast in worldview is to tell you the opening line of the Ukrainian national anthem: “Ukraine is not dead yet.” If that’s not pessimism, I don’t what is.

So yes, I’m a Peace Corps Volunteer teaching English in Ukraine. But what’s more important, I’m a PCV introducing radical concepts like hope for the future, honest academic achievement made through putting in the work required to learn a language (instead of buying grades), and even crazier concepts like volunteerism (unheard of in Ukraine), and world friendship (for those of us not too cynical to believe this might be possible).

A lovely lady named Iryna, who serves as Peace Corps Ukraine’s Training Manager, sent all volunteers a little encouragement via email last month that pointed out the importance of our work here, for days when it feels like we’re accomplishing nothing. I was really inspired by her words, so I’m going to share them with you:

“Although 20 years have passed since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the changes in the mentality of our nation, which hopefully will be followed by the changes in the spirit – from “Ukraine has not died yet…” as our national anthem states to something more optimistic and engaging like “Ukraine will live and prosper and each of us is part of it… ” – are not happening overnight and might require several generations. So, what I want to say, is that when you are interacting with my countrymen in your communities (be it in a work setting or while drinking tea or playing football) and sharing the genuine beliefs you brought here with you that “Life is not what’s happening to you, but rather it’s something that depends on you” and yes, “You can do it and I trust in you!”, you are influencing their mentality and it IS, in my opinion, the MOST IMPORTANT thing you could do. No global indicators (which are being developed now) would be able to measure this growing self-confidence, belief in ourselves and overcoming this passiveness and pessimism which were fostered and enforced by the system which expected everyone to feel and act like a dumb nuisance and never to stick out. It is the sparkling eyes of your students, the pleasant feeling people around you are experiencing after having done something for their communities, the excitement of speaking up about your personal opinion, the joy of understanding that we are no longer an enclave of the Earth but rather a part of this global world, which makes Peace Corps very relevant in Ukraine in this very dramatic time when our country is still torn between its authoritarian past and democratic future.”

I truly believe that the experience of writing a dream grant, raising money in my community in my Ukraine, and being blessed with the financial help of interested friends and family members from America, will be just important as the creation of the English Resource and Technology Center, because it will prove to my Ukrainian co-workers and students that they can achieve their goals and dreams through hard-work and determination (and a little help from their friends, in the words of the Beatles!).

Maybe they see me as an American anomaly, coming to live in their town for two years and work for nothing. But this grant and the new English center will stand as proof of everything that I’ve said: that Americans are truly interested in helping make the world a better place, that fundraising is a legitimate concept where people give money with the expectation of getting nothing back, and that the future is bright and change is possible, even in Ukraine where agnosticism about life and the future is so prevalent.

I’m so passionate about this project, and wish I could kindle just a little bit of this spark in you. I think the teachers in my school don’t believe this project will ever reach fulfillment; they’re skeptical at best when I tell them that strangers in America will donate $2600 before the end of the school year. Help me prove them wrong, and not only will you help us create an English Resource and Technology Center (with things like real textbooks and a new computer!), but you’ll also be helping me change Ukrainians’ perceptions of Americans, of education, and of all the possibilities the future holds for them.

Okay, I’ve said as much as I can to convince you of the merit of this project. If you feel so moved, you can either click on the “Donate” tab at the top of the screen and follow the instructions, or follow this link directly to the Peace Corps website. On the right side of the page, just enter an amount and click “donate” and it’ll guide you through the rest. Please comment below if you donate, because I’d love to email or call you personally to thank you for your help! 😀

And if all those words weren’t enough to do the trick, I have a secret weapon to ignite your generosity: pictures of the very people who your donation will help the most— my students!

2 of my favorite fourth graders, in traditional Ukrainian costumes!

My smartest 7th graders… they’re a blast 🙂

The 6th graders, who are loud but smart!

My favorite sixth grade girls, who light up my life 🙂

Look at those cute faces… every dollar you donate helps THEM get a better education. So what are you waiting for? 1900 dollars to go, and less than 2 months to raise is. Donate today!

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5 thoughts on “We’re Growing People… and we need your help.

  1. Dawn Walther says:

    Awesome job! I want to share this with all my friends to help you raise money. Is there a link they can click on, to donate?

  2. Tammela says:

    Fantastic post, love! I may link it and/or copy/paste some of it into a blog or email from my end. Thanks!

  3. […] difference in our host countries and at our sites. But my good friend, Kate, recently wrote a great blog post, citing some things that remind us of the difference we do make. The changes may not be visible, […]

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