George's Adventures in Ukraine

George Fletcher, a volunteer at the European Volunteer Service (EVS), came to Ukraine from Britain to work on the Klitschko Foundation projects. EVS is the European Commission's initiative that allows a young person to become a volunteer in another country in the field of environment, sports, arts, and culture.

EVS volunteers work in non-profit organizations and institutions and take an active part in the social life of their host community. At the same time, they gain new experiences and knowledge that may be useful for their future. Read about his 7 months of volunteering in Ukraine, cultural differences, the importance of volunteering and projects of the Klitschko Foundation in our interview.

George has decided to come to Ukraine because of the position at Klitschko Foundation. Having worked in the 3rd sector in the UK before, he looked at different international non-government organizations and their work within their respective nation, and Klitschko Foundation was one of them. One of the things he learned about the Foundation is that it is very focused on developing young people and creating new opportunities for them that they may never have had before in their life, that's why he was very excited to be a part of such an organization. 

The Foundation is firstly about people and people's stories. I have been in Ukraine since March. So within 7 months, I've come into contact with over a thousand people. You need to be ready to communicate. My life is about communicating with other people whether it is in a hospital, a youth club, a children's home. I've done it in all environments so, although it's a lot of people, I was ready for it and I thrive on the buzz of the people. I love it.

He was working as a nurse, but in high school, he specialized in creative subjects product design, media studies and IT. He's a creative mind. As a nurse, he has worked in various different departments such as emergency and intensive care. He has a quite varied experience, but he decided to do something different and that's why he's here. 

I first began my volunteering adventure when I was around 13 at a local youth club, that was where it all started for me and that's where I fell in love with volunteering and doing something productive with my spare time. At the age of 18, I decided to move to South Africa for 12 months, where I was volunteering at a children's home for boys, who had very challenging backgrounds. there wasn't really any rest. There was no escape from this high tempo work. I was aware of the history, the recent history, but I had no idea how much it had affected the people of today. And I felt that quite with a heavy heart. I felt like I grew five years within one year. So it was a challenge in itself, but I learnt a lot from the experience. It shaped me as a person. 

At the Foundation, George deals with grant applications, explores opportunities for international cooperation, organizes speaking clubs and helps participants as a mentor.

I think the main challenge during my mentorship in the School of Success was the reflection process because I have limitations with my language. I can't have a conversation in Ukrainian. I can understand. But because of the pace of the conversation I find it really hard to have a full flow conversation. I would say that the first reflection was quite difficult because everything was brand new. But it functioned very well. We had an understanding of each other. Within the group, we had volunteers who helped each other understand what's being said. It is the biggest challenge I have overcome on the project.

George is absolutely amazed by the range of people that the Foundation comes into contact with and benefits from the projects, which are designed for the sole purpose of benefiting the young people, even through updating the practice of their teachers. The other amazing thing is the emphasis on sustainability. One of the conditions on participating in the Klitschko Foundation’s projects is that you go to your own community and do your own local project. Through these local projects, more people will be reached with the same message that Klitschko Foundation has. After delivering the project it sends out a cascade, like when you drop a stone into the water and you have these ripples. Klitschko Foundation is the stone. Ukraine is the water. It's a small stone but it creates a large ripple and these ripples reach the far corners of Ukraine

Teens are the biggest changemakers. Teenagers are growing up in a different environment to the one I grew up in, pressure has increased. I feel young people can often be ignored. The main thing that they need is to be taught about empowerment and self-realization. I think it would be very easy for a young mind to be ignored and lost amongst the crowd. But if you can nurture this mind to help realize their potential through projects such as the School of Success, then you're empowering young people to strive for what they want to do. Not what their parents or society want them to do. But what they feel they want to do in order to make positive impacts on other people and also their own lives.

I also think it's very important to teach them to enjoy their life. And I'm not talking about surfing every day. I'm talking about enjoying what you do day to day as a career. Hobbies, jobs, education. An important lesson to teach young people is to try to get enjoyment out of what they do. Find something that you enjoy and then once you fall in love with it you'll never feel like you're at work because you enjoy it so much. Because if you don't enjoy it, could be destined to live a life of misery.

George adds one cultural difference is that Ukrainians know how to enjoy their life in so subtle ways. He feels like people in Britain can be miserable Monday to Friday and then when the weekend comes that's the only time people are happy. He thinks that Ukrainians know how to spread out their happiness throughout the week. You see people are taking part leisurely activities during the week, going out for lunch and going out for dinners. It doesn't mean that people in the UK are totally miserable but they don't know how to enjoy things just a little bit. They have to have everything all at once.

That's not the only difference I noticed. One thing I have to say that is very different in Ukraine is the queuing system. People in Ukraine don't queue very well. If you're in the metro and you need to buy a ticket… It's chaos. And because I'm used to queuing, people always run in front of me because I'm just like trying to wait for my turn. Eventually, I had to push in because no one would let me. I think if this was my first international experience it would possibly be slightly different. But because I've lived in a different country before I sort of felt like I knew how to approach starting a new life. For me, I feel very welcome in Ukraine, especially on the marshrutka. I'm very well integrated into this culture. I know how the system works. And for me, it's very enjoyable.

Regarding friendships and relationships, George says it was easy for him due to the fact that a lot of his colleagues within the Foundation are of a similar age and have similar thought processes. And different projects allow him to have opportunities to meet so many people. 

Everyone is so kind and it's always so nice to speak with new people that want to practice their English or try to teach me something new in Ukrainian.

The thing that connected the Foundation team and George is life values. The first one is love. Love for friends, family, the environment. Love for yourself and for other people. The second one is loyalty. Loyalty to everybody who was within your circle. Loyalty to the Foundation and the people within.

I think that in my experience the best way to inspire people is by giving a personal experience of volunteering. I'm very fortunate because I've got quite a diverse volunteering experience. And I can tell some rather interesting stories about my journey so far. And the places that I've been the people that I've met. So this for me is a good way of inspiring people to get onboard with volunteering.

The main value of a good volunteer is selflessness. You should never expect to gain. You should always be doing it for another person. But also within educational projects in terms of skills, you need to have an interest in the subjects. You have to be interested in mobilizing socially active youth.