Friday, April 29, 2011

Shto takoy 527 (what is 527)?

In Nova Kakhovka, on the fine sunny afternoon of today, Stephanie, Rachel and I held a seminar for 25 students. The objective was to discuss the problem of human trafficking in Ukraine and internationally. The group included 9th- and 11th- graders, all who had heard of human slavery, but who learned a lot of new information today.

For about the first 20 minutes, we had technical problems (that is an important part of a seminar -- what's a good seminar without the expected "technical difficulties"?) Thanks to 2 students, we got things to work eventually. While our student technicians were messing around with the electronics to get everything to work, some students made a poster (shown in the picture), and as a group, we asked students, "What do you know about human trafficking? What words come to mind when you think of this phrase?"
Words included -

Surprisingly, as we learned from MTV's documentary "Exit" (once we gave up on my 7-year-old Dell and used a student's laptop -- thank you Margaret!), many cases of human trafficking occur in the least expected ways: a victim featured in the film had been dating a guy (locally) for about a year; he was great to her, treated her well, and she trusted him. And after a year of him being her boyfriend, he took her on a trip, only to inform her that he was taking her to the person who had bought her - he had sold her as a prostitute.
The terrible thing is that this is a common scenario.

We then went through the PowerPoint presentation that Rachel had put together and had had translated into Russian; it gave a lot of important statistics, facts, definitions, and most importantly:

527 is a hotline in Ukraine - it is a toll-free call with life:), Kyivstar, MTC, and Beeline phones; people can call the number to report an incident, to voice any concerns, or to check and see if a company they have heard about is a trustworthy company or if they should stay away from any job offers from a specific company.

Thank you to the talented English students for translating our Russian into real Russian, and our English into Russian.

After the seminar, the 8 students who were able to stay after school canvassed around a few locations with a lot of foot traffic. They handed out fliers with the 527 info on it. They got a lot of "thank you"s and "I didn't know that"s; the students' initiative was so impressive.

Unfortunately I only have one picture on my camera (Rachel & Steph have the rest) - this picture is just of the three of us. The students have a bunch of pictures, videos, etc. that will be submitted to the PC 50th anniversary website.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

spring in Ukraine, take 2

Since I'm pretty close to finishing Peace Corps, it only makes sense to start a blog now... right? I've been lazy with the blog that I half-heartedly set up right before leaving for Ukraine, and sure enough, it's taken me 20 months to write my first entry.

Spring in Ukraine arrived overnight this year, sometime this past week, and it's been driving my students crazy. They can't sit still (I don't blame them), so I have been making my lesson plans less monotonous and less book-focused, and have been making the kids move all over the classroom.

A recent lesson was with a 7th grade group; the theme was "stereotypes." An activity we did as part of the lesson was having the class stand under signs ("agree"/"sometimes"/"disagree") after I read a statement. Only one student stood under "disagree" after I said, "Gay people are bad." She gave her reasoning - "gay people know what they want, and what they want is love." After that, about half of the class changed their minds and stood under the "disagree" sign with her.
So, way to go; I'm very proud of that girl.

That was yesterday; a few days before that was Easter, and Easter in Ukraine is definitely an experience. I was in a small village just outside my site, and my friends and I got up at 3 in the morning to go to church and be blessed with holy water, along with our Easter basket (we filled it with the stuff Ukrainians fill it with - sausage, cheese, bread, chocolate, alcohol of some sort, and of course, Paskha, or Easter bread.)

The next day by the river: