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In under a week, I’ll be flying out to Ukraine to undertake some volunteering for two weeks somewhere. I know, it’s not first place that would come to mind when you think about places that needs volunteers. But, I’ll explain why I chose it.

A little history lesson

Some may not be aware, but in the early months of 2014, Ukraine went through a Revolution. They went through a deep and shocking change as they split away from their Russian brethren. They separated from their neighbours as they moved towards unifying themselves with the rest of Europe.

Like most revolutions in modern history, it was not the most peaceful and event-free; there were riots, many involving violence and gun shots. Unfortunately, when it came down to it, it was a case of conflicting beliefs that resulted in war and some parts of Eastern Ukraine being taken over by Russia.

GoCamp

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Out of the ashes of these struggles, a Mustafa Nayem started a NGO that aimed to empower and gift the young children of Ukraine with skills necessary to thrive in the globalised world. GoCamp aims to start with the basics, which is being able to speak the most common business language; English. However, it goes further than that. English is taught through one of many streams, including: STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art & Maths), Citizenship, Leadership&Career and Sports & Health. They recruit volunteers from all over the world, aiming to break language and social barriers with Ukraine and the rest of the world.

Why Ukraine and not somewhere else?

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been hired in a graduate scheme that allowed its grads to take on some volunteering in their first year. Before I joined, I knew that I’ll take on the opportunity when the time arose (without affecting work, of course). When researching, I didn’t want to volunteer somewhere local, I wanted to go away. I wanted to travel somewhere I can learn something, someplace that was different from I was used to.

When I brought the fact that was taking on some volunteering, the question that usually followed was:

Person A: “Oh, so where in Africa are volunteering?”

Which I usually followed with:

Me:: “I’m not.”

Unfortunately, in the west, people in general tend to have one view of nations in Africa (if they’re even capable differentiating a continent from a country).. they usually think that countries in Africa usually look like this:

 

Where in truth, these places are also in Africa:

Abijan – Ivory Coast

 

However, these photos are all in Europe:

And these are all in Asia:

Source:challengesworldwide

You get the point.

So, when I chose to volunteer I didn’t want to add to the idea that it was only African nations that needed volunteering, because in truth, all places (regardless of continent) can do with some help.

After all that, I found myself aiming for Ukraine, because of the reasons GoCamp brought forward.

 

What I aim to get out of it?

First and foremost, I want to break stereotypes. I want to change my own internal stereotype that I’ve built towards Eastern Europe. Hopefully, I can change stereotypes towards people like me; i.e. a black man.

Most importantly, I want to grow.

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