A year in Dnepropetrovsk

An American volunteer in Ukraine

DGU kickoff event in Zaporozhe

December 17, 2008. 11 am. “Cultural Palace,” Zaporozhe.

Press conference

The morning began with a press conference, to which the major television channels, newspapers, and young volunteers of Zaporozhe were invited. I was very excited by the turnout– nearly 40 young people were there, which is quite astonishing, considering how little is known about voluntarism here in Ukraine. The conference lasted a little over an hour, after all was said and done. Inessa, the energetic director of JCC Zaporozhe, who organized most of this event, was our emcee for the morning. We opened with speeches. Anatoli, director of Chessed Zaporozhe, and Amir spoke, among others. Then it was time to unveil the site itself.

Inessa, Sabina, and I explain the site

Above (left to right): Inessa, me, Sabina

Sabina, the Do Good, Ukraine! coordinator in Zaporozhe, had prepared an explanatory slide show about our site, and then she walked the audience through some of the more exciting features live, through a mobile internet connection Igor, the Tkuma Holocaust studies director, managed to connect for us. After Sabina’s excellent presentation, I said a few words (in Russian!), emphasizing that this site is for the young volunteers out there, that we don’t just want them to volunteer through our forum, we want them to be part of the site itself. Blogs, photos, articles, graphics, design, and anything else they can think of are not only welcome, they’re necessary to make sure that Do Good, Ukraine! is their site.

Art exhibition of the volunteer project "Lend a Helping Hand"

While the press conference was finishing, downstairs on the first floor, an art exhibition was unveiled. The JCC Zaporozhe volunteer project, Lend a Helping Hand, was displaying various artworks that they created with children from special schools, orphanages, and social organizations (scroll down to the article “Lend a Helping Hand” in the Do Good, Ukraine! website).

A Winter Fairytale!

When the press conference ended, we all walked past the art exhibition into the main room of the Cultural Palace. There Inessa had gathered the children from Zaporozhe’s orphanages to celebrate New Year’s, together with the volunteers and the press. It was called a Winter Fairytale, and it certainly lived up to its name. There were arts and crafts, singing, dancing, games, performances, gifts, costumes, and much holiday cheer. It was a truly moving (and fun!) afternoon.

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