Volunteerism is your small step and at the same time it is a huge step for humanity. Nowadays the number of volunteers is growing rapidly all over the world. And actually it is good news for all of humanity. The question is: what motivates volunteers? why do they do what they do? Probably my reasons will be too flimsy, unreal and said too loudly or proudly, but I have every right to affirm that volunteers are those people who think differently. They are initiative takers. They realize that in order to have something happen, it is not enough to watch. They are the people who actually fight stereotypes and change the lives of real people.
To prove my thoughts I would like to present to you six real people who work on making difference, and are pretty confident in what they are doing. They are FLEX alumni. I assume it is a very important fact that gathered them together, keeps them on one team and motivates them to volunteer. Who knows may be it is fate that we were meeting each other every next year. However I assert that it also a willingness to show another way of living, in our case American.
Take the first st just do it, get started, make the leap… We didn’t do a lot of talking; we just started to make our first little steps. It was easy for us because we had a lot in common. So our work began from taking homeless kids, kids from poor families to the theater or a puppet theater. It was a joy to observe the kids laughing or being serious, to answer their questions and listen to their stories (sometimes real, sometimes fictitious) and their plans and dreams. We realized the importance of keeping in touch with them. They valued every minute we spent with them. It was precious to see their appreciation for just talking to them or taking them to the zoo.
Our first great achievement was our project “The Thread of Life” in the summer of 2009. The project concerned disabled kids and was directed on their health improvement through ipotherapy. The thing is that we live in a small city and we actually did not have the necessary equipment to implement our idea. Nevertheless we wanted to make our idea real and we did it. Over a period of two months a group of disabled kids took part in horse-back riding lessons, which had medicinal benefits for them. Joined by their family members, we were able to offer them fun opportunities to spend time together. We felt our greatest happiness at the end of the project, as improvements in the children were noticeable. Kids began to move their hands or legs, some of them improved their walking. It was nice to see the change.
So the children had expired us and we wanted to do more and more. Things went very fast and well. We were taking kids with special needs on picnics, and playing games with them. It was such a pleasure to see them smile. We visited a school for mentally ill children. We organized several drawing and craft making classes for them. The best part was observing them making some thing, being as creative as possible. It was also great to see them making their first steps in communication with us. They fought their uncertainty and shyness, becoming more open-minded.
We did a lot of nice and interesting things that were bringing joy to us as well.
Let us share a quote: ‘There is nothing in the world that can be done without any faults’. It happened to us. The things were going perfectly and probably we took too high a level of responsibility. We planned a lot but a little of our plans were becoming realistic. It was our time of faults. However we learned to be more responsible, organized, honest, open minded and serious. At that time we met people from Peace Corps: American volunteering in Ukraine. They helped us to take some obligations of things we started to do. We helped them to adapt to the Ukrainian culture. Our cooperation lasts since then till now. I think it is a very valuable cooperation and help.
In mid October 2010 we organized a long trip to Dubno, Rivne and Korets for a group of children from orphanages and beneficial organization. It was hard to deal with 40 totally different personalities but we made it. It is our second new start in the field of voluntarism. Every single person enjoyed the trip although it was raining. It was happiness for them and us to spend time in such way so we even did not notice the weather conditions.
Also, starting in October, we organized an English Club for the children from the orphanage. Anyone who wants to know more English and wants to learn something new about the United States of America can join us twice every week. We are trying to use as many unofficial ways to teach them English as we can, and, so far, it gives us positive results.
But all the projects we have done would not be so successful if we would not have such a good and friendly team of Flex Alumni from different generations.
As I am the youngest person in the team, I always enjoy listening and following my partners, who are more experienced that I am and can teach me a lot of thing in this life. All other five persons are standing like an example for me right now, an example of who and what I want to be in the future. Most of them are students of the third-fourth years of university, but their life experience is incredible, and every single one of them is unique.
The first person I want to mention is Andriy Lets, who participated in FLEX in 1994-95. Now he is a successful businessman. It’s very good that Andriy is on our team, because as he is the oldest most experienced person, he can observe everything from the other side and make the comments about what we are doing from a different point of view.
Volodymyr Kobrin ’07 is also a big contributor in our group. He is the Western Ukraine Alumni Coordinator at the moment. Despite the fact that he is always busy, he tries to help us with every project.
The next member of our group I want to mention is Alina Mykytyuk ’07, who is our Lutsk City Representative. She is studying in Volyn’ National University. Alina is one of our group’s *generator of ideas*.
The other *generator of ideas* is Gabriela Yevstafyeva ’08, who is studying in two universities at the same time. Gabriela is always very initiative and always trying to participate in every project.
One more member of our group is Timur Hadzhyyev ’07. He is also studying in Volyn’ National University. We are really thankful to Timur, because despite the fact that he’s studying and has a job, he is trying to find time for us. Timur is doing everything he can to contribute to our projects and we are really appreciating him.
And now a few words about the last member of our team Anatoliy Slobodenyuk. It’s me. I am in the first year of university at the moment and haven’t done much so far. But I am doing everything I can, so I can be a full part of our FLEX Alumni team. But I can say that my personal achievement has really helped me to develop myself as a person. I was a participant of a Youth Exchange in mid-September, which took part in Crimea, Ukraine. The topic of this exchange was *Voluntarism – Citizenship in Action*. This project really changed me. Now I understand that voluntarism is a very important thing everyone has to do, in order to make the whole world better.
In closing, I want to share one of my favorite sayings: No special group, no particular individual can change the world. I think the world is changed by the aggregate of people in it and how they live individually.