The Ukraine Program was initially launched as the Ukraine Refugee Support Service-Learning Program (URSS-L). As the program developed, we realized we were learning and serving with both internally and externally displaced refugees but also other non-refugee Ukrainians. So, we adopted the more inclusive name of the Ukraine Program.
There are an estimated 12 – 14 million internally and externally displaced Ukrainian refugees. Most if not all these people as well as many other Ukrainians are experiencing deep trauma brought on by the Russian invasion. Many US citizens want to offer support beyond donating funds.
Global Service Corps launched the Ukraine Refugee Support Service-Learning Program to address these needs. We are joined and assisted by Ukrainian professionals, Ukrainian-Americans, and other Americans as part of the program Advisory Group. We have reached out to Ukrainian NGOs that are now program partners. The Women’s Perspectives Ukrainian NGO http://www.women.lviv.ua/en/ is supporting Ukrainian refugee families and has shared results of a survey which identified the needs and interests of refugees. Conversational English training came up regularly as an area of interest and a as a means of addressing trauma and improving mental health. From one of our Ukrainian Advisors:
Ukrainians are aware that fluency in English opens better opportunities in employment and education. The chance to practice English with US speakers is a chance to build up confidence in language use, as many people who learned English at school and college nevertheless find it difficult to deal with the psychological barrier when it comes to actually using the language for real-life purposes. For people who have been displaced and traumatized by war, practicing conversational English is an opportunity to find their bearings, to do something useful and “normal”, and also to meet other people and feel they are not alone. Two women colleagues, one currently in Estonia and the other in Georgia, said English is practically the only means of communication outside their homes accessible to them – they don’t know the local languages and most people in Estonia and Georgia do not understand Ukrainian well, and resent using Russian.
One of the Program conversational English workshop groups of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) located in an area of Ukraine that is under regular bombardment by the Russian army.
Another Ukrainian NGO we are now partnering with is TESOL-Ukraine http://www.tesol-ukraine.com/, an association of professionals advancing the quality of English language teaching in Ukraine through life-long professional development and research. TESOL-Ukraine posted a survey on their Facebook page to identify refugees interested in conversational English training. They identified over 100 refugees who expressed interest and provided their contact information. TESOL-Ukraine also recruited Ukrainian professional English teachers who volunteered to work with us to provide this training. Seven of our Advisory Group members with experience teaching English and/or international experience agreed to work with these Ukrainian teachers to provide conversational English workshops to Ukrainian refugees.
We completed an eight-week conversational English practice workshop pilot project launched on July 10, 2022. Six teams of workshop facilitators of one or two US English speakers and one Ukrainian English trainer met with groups of three to ten Ukrainian refugees, mostly IDPs (internally displaced persons) who requested assistance with conversational English. These virtual workshops took place via Zoom Sunday evenings Ukraine time and drew on conversational English teaching resources and the personal experiences of the facilitators. Facilitators submitted weekly reports and student participants who completed the workshop received a certificate of completion from TESOL-Ukraine and Global Service Corps. We were greatly impressed by the resilience of our new Ukrainian friends and their willingness to share and learn with us.
The conversational English workshop group pictured above created and narrated a wonderful 18-minute video as part of our final virtual party session “Welcome to Ukraine”
We are now expanding the Ukraine Program to offer conversational English practice and English training opportunities to more Ukrainians. If you are interested in learning more about this work, or possibly serving as a conversational English mentor or co-facilitator, or supporting this program in some other way, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org