From Alaska to Ukraine:
Alaskans bring service beyond borders
“I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” — Albert Schweitzer
To volunteer means simply to be motivated and give one’s time, or energies, to work toward a project or cause that you are interested in. I have always had the dream of working overseas and experiencing different cultures. Along with 44 other volunteers, in March 2009, my husband and I traveled 30 hours to take on two years of volunteer service to Peace Corps-Ukraine.
The first culture shock was when we were met at the bus by our “host mother,” Vera. Ukrainian families were tasked with the daunting mission of teaching us how to live in Ukraine: how to shop for food, how to manage the transportation system and how to live within their culture. But…Vera did not speak English and we did not speak Ukrainian.
Over the next 3 months Vera, Jim and I used the “словник” (dictionary) to talk over breakfast and dinner. Vera met us at the door each morning as we left for school for our daily inspection to make sure we were dressed warm enough and that our shoes were polished. When we returned each night, she had hot borsch waiting for us and many questions about our day. We shared the difficulties of suddenly being transported to a foreign country to do business with her and she encouraged us to go back into the madness the next day.
This was not a vacation. From day one we were in school six hours a day, attended business and culture training and studied Ukrainian for four hours a night. We met council authorities, where all 44 of us followed the script over and over: добрий день (hello), it is nice to meet you; my name is Роберта Елізер (Roberta Eleazer). I am п'ятьдесят-п'ять (55) years old, and I have a bachelor degree in людина послуг (human services) and master’s in in міжнародних досліджень (international studies). Each week we added a new sentence, and sooner than we expected we were graduated, saying good-bye to our host mothers and fellow volunteers, meeting our new counterparts and traveling long distances to our new community.
Two and a half years have gone by; we are still struggling with the language and the perplexing actions needed to accomplish business. But in spite of all the challenges, the joy of serving is motivating. If you have just a few hours a day think about join one of your local community groups and make life a little better for someone else. It will bring you great joy.
For more information about Lions, contact Amy Demboski at 301-9179.