In-Service Training: Projects, Plans & People

The past two weeks have flown by! I was in Kiev from August 6-9th and 13th-16th for two In-Service Training’s (ISTs) offered by the Peace Corps. At ISTs, every volunteer brings a coworker (we call them ‘counterparts’)  in order to receive extra training on topics that are important to the development of  Ukrainian society.

Both ISTs were extremely beneficial events for me and my counterparts. I was really excited to attend, and they did not disappoint. I truly have been impressed with Peace Corps Ukraine and the high quality programming that is offered to Peace Corps Volunteers.

The first training was focused on volunteerism and service learning. We learned about the history and current state of volunteerism in Ukraine, how to develop volunteer programs, and how to add an educational component to volunteer programs, thereby turning them into service learning projects. We also learned a lot about how to design and manage projects, and grant writing was covered in depth, as well.

Throughout the week, each volunteer worked with their counterpart to develop a volunteer program that could be implemented in their organization. My colleague, Oksana, and I worked to draft a plan that would train retirees on volunteerism and how to work with at-risk children; after receiving training, the retirees would do presentations and workshops with the children in order to share their life and work skills.

Oksana and Ashley

Oksana and I next to our project poster. She was an excellent artist and gave it a Chicken Little theme: ‘if we all work together, the sky does not fall.’

I am very excited about the possibility of implementing this project: one interesting fact about Ukraine is that only 10% of people who volunteer are over the age of 25. In contrast, the majority of Americans who volunteer are over the age of 25. Targeting retirees is a way to help spread volunteerism to more populations in Ukraine. (FYI: The word used for ‘retirees’ in Ukraine is ‘pensioner’).

Volunteerism IST - Full Group -2Group photo of volunteers/counterparts from the volunteerism IST

The second IST was on Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Development. It was another great experience. A wide variety of topics were covered: advocacy, assessing the needs of NGO’s, how to write  mission/vision statements, fundraising strategies, and how to develop a strategic plan.

I attended this training with Nina, the director of my main organization, Kalinowe Grono. (Most volunteers, including myself, have a ‘main’ organization that we volunteer with, as well as one or more ‘secondary’ organizations). Throughout the week, we analyzed the current needs of our organization and identified ways in which we can strengthen it.

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Nina and I with our plan to strengthen the capacity of our organization (Nina’s eyes are half closed, but it was the better of the two photos we had taken!)

All in all, I was very pleased with the past two weeks. The sessions I attended have given me and my coworkers some great project ideas, as well as ways we can work together towards a stronger future for our organization and for Ukrainian civil society. I hope for and anticipate great things in the future!

It was also a great opportunity to catch up with my fellow volunteers who went through training at the same time as me. People are always what matters most, and seeing nearly all of my fellow Group 45 PCV’s after two months was a special treat. (PCV = Peace Corps Volunteer).

Happy to take any comments!