A week before Katherine is to hold her first big event as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine, things didn’t look good. The only performers she had for the Youth Center’s Christmas Concert were the English Christmas Carol Club and with no budget for decorations, everything had to be made by hand. But, in true Peace Corps fashion, everything falls into place at the last moment. Hear this story and the rest of Katherine’s Peace Corps story.
On this Episode:
- Katherine’s first Christmas in Ukraine
- Riding a cross-country train with a stomach virus and hourly dashes to the bathroom
- The hospitality and kindness of Ukraine
Photos from Katherine’s Story
Katherine’s Peace Corps Story
Where and when did you serve? What did you do?
I’m serving in Lviv, Ukraine at a youth center. I am working in the youth development sector and I assist with creating programs and trainings for youth, ages 14-25 mostly. On weekly basis, I coordinate clubs for youth and often my counterparts and I conduct trainings in leadership, project management, effective communication, and teamwork. Most of what I do is fun like encouraging youth to do projects like creating a concert series or having a karaoke night.
What is one of your favorite Peace Corps memories?
So far, I’ve loved the experience of doing small project grant. I made a ton of mistakes initially but the project itself essentially created the youth center. We worked very hard on a regular basis and faced all the challenges head-on. During the project, we created a youth initiative group, renovated the largest room in the youth center, and created concrete goals for the youth center and our volunteers. The title of this project was “Imagine a Space that Empowers,” and we created a space of true empowerment.
What is one of your least favorite Peace Corps memories?
I train travel a lot in Ukraine. Especially, I travel on overnight trains often. The worst memory was having the stomach virus on a nine-hour overnight train. It was literally the worst and every time I came back from the bathroom I’d look at the clock and think only x more hours until I arrive home.
What will you miss about the Peace Corps?
I think I’ll miss the people the most. Ukrainians are just overall the best. They are so full of fun, humor, enlightenment, and creativity. They are so hopeful for their country and the world that I’m excited and eager to be working alongside them every day. Also, I’ll miss the community of other volunteers here in Lviv.
What is something you learned in the Peace Corps?
I’ve never been shy but I’ve learned how far a simple “hello” and “how are you going.” As a way to integrate into my community, I literally am that crazy person that talks to everyone. First off, it is great language practice. Waiters and cashiers have to talk to you. They’re usually surprised at first. Eventually, they’re excited for you to come and to talk to you. In the United States, I would never engage everyone in conversation. Second, I’ve made a lot of friends in my neighborhood and around my office.
Do you have a favorite quote or local saying?
“Скільки мов ти знаєш, стільки разів ти людина.”
“How many languages you know is another person you become.”
I love this phrase. It is assumed that everyone in Ukraine only speaks Russian and not Ukrainian. For them, they’re incredibly excited that people, American people, would choose to learn their language of their country. I feel like through speaking Ukrainian, that I have gotten to know another side of myself. I’ve grown in confidence and have fallen in love with this language and the people.