Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Good Works in Ukraine

My niece, Jessica has been in the Ukraine for several years now, and I thought I would add this to my blog as she is looking for financial help for her school where she teaches. Jessica is not only a Peace Corps Volunteer, but she is a writer too, and it is enjoyable reading about her experiences. She is from Loveland Colorado, and she blogs about her experiences in Loveland's local newspaper the herald. The link is below. I would bookmark it so you can read about her experiences.

This is what she recently wrote (links follow):

Me: You know I don't like to eat the organs of the animals.

My teacher friend: Well, the pancakes (malincy) that I made a few weeks ago had the meat of hearts and livers in them.

Me: I ate hearts and livers?

 I've done things here so outside my normal comfort zone (sometimes unintentionally) that I'm not sure I'll find my way back to the same place. Nor would I want to. I'm living in Ukraine as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

 I'm sending this to everyone in my contact list. And since this is Gmail, this means that whether you be friend, family member, acquaintance, someone I might have applied to about a job, or a representative of the International Remittance Department who has notified me of the $25.5 million sum I'm due to inherit from Nigeria, you are receiving this letter because I'd like your help.

 For those who don't know, I'm a Coloradan who joined the Peace Corps September 2007 and committed to two years and three months of service teaching English to Ukrainian children. I trained for the first three months in a village and then was sworn in as a Peace Corps volunteer and moved to my permanent home, Koziatyn, where I started working as a teacher. I have enjoyed my experiences here. Well, almost all the experiences. Maybe not the ones where I'm frightened out of shops by scary store clerks or when I'm harassed by bums at the train station, saved by little old ladies, and then asked for two hryven because their feet hurt. But even those moments I take in stride now, because I'm a volunteer, and this is my home for the time.

I have an irreplaceable counterpart (my main Ukrainian contact at school), a lovely host family who I stayed with those first three months and still go back to visit, amazing Ukrainian and American friends, and, most importantly, my adorable kids. (The ones who listen to me). I teach English classes to fifth grade to 10th grade in school number five in a city called Koziatyn.

My fifth forms are precocious and active, not necessarily at learning English, but at least still interested in me. Every day when they see me, they run up and ask in Ukrainian, "Will you be with us today?" I used to answer automatically in Ukrainian, but now I ask them, "How do you say it in English?" which stumps them but they repeat after me and are starting to remember it. My sixth forms also do their best. There are about five or six girls who shake their arms wildly to answer and sometimes I have to shush them. My seventh and eighth forms like to push the limit because I'm not as interesting to them anymore. I feel accomplished only sometimes. I've been teaching my own curriculum on the U.S.A. with the ninth form (because according to the national curriculum, they are supposed to spend several weeks on the U.S., yet there is little information in the book). A few weeks ago I brought the ingredients for burritos during the talk on American food, and they loved it. My tenth form is strong but getting lazy and I'm working harder to push them to do their homework.

 And on to the point: I could use some help. We
would like to get some better English textbooks in the classroom. I can't stress enough how frustrating it is sometimes to teach with some of the books. We want to buy some great British series' that engage the children, and have better texts and activities than most Ukrainian-authored books. In addition, when I went home for Christmas, I recorded videos in different scenarios. I'm editing them into educational videos to show in the classroom, to go along with the more difficult books. I'll have some of the kids help me, so that they can take ownership of the project as well. The teachers need a way to show these videos, as well as other English movies and presentations, in the classroom so we'd like to get a computer projector and a white board. The whiteboard would be a godsend because 1) their chalkboard is ancient and doesn't work well and 2) we will be able to project onto it.

 I've applied for a Peace Corps Partnership grant which enables me to partner with all of you in helping me to expand the English department resources. Peace Corps has set up a Web site link for me at https://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.donors.contribute.donatenow. Search by country of service, Ukraine, and the results show up below. Click on 'Benes J'.  There you can read another description of my project. It would be such a help to us if you visited the link and donated (tax-deductible) to help my kids get more excited and interested in English! This is the reason I'm here.

 Here's a note from my counterpart, Natalia Frantsivna Mochalova:

Among my personal goals in teaching my pupils is comprehensive skills development and learner development. I try to use authentic materials, to choose information related to the students' own world, to give them all possible images of English-speaking countries. Students are encouraged to develop as independent and active learners of English. This will make them better students throughout their further education. Students try to do the best when they are involved in the process of studying, when they are dealing with meaningful and interesting content.

 I have begun to notice that pupils are bored at school in the last few years. They can use the computers, they can learn more about the world from other resources not at school. That is good, but I think it would be a great contribution in their education to develop their skills, to show them the possibilities and an awareness of other cultures. The modern lessons must be interesting, informative and well-equipped. That's why the communicative textbooks, a projector and computer programs would be so useful.


Natasha (Natalia – she's referred to as both) and I are so thankful for your help. Also, I'm always so encouraged by all of you for posting comments on my blog , writing me emails, or just thinking about me.

 Sincerely, Jessica Benes

Peace Corps Volunteer, Group 33

Koziatyn, Ukraine

Blog: http://www.reporterherald.com/blogs/blog.asp?bid=10902

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