Over a year ago now when most countries were in some form of lockdown and travel was very restricted a plethora of different ways to adapt to the new normal were devised. One of these was to have regular coffee meetings between the teams in Ukraine and the supporters in other countries. It wasn’t the same as actually being with them in Ukraine but it allowed us to keep in touch and feel a little bit connected to the work they were doing.
However the satisfaction of helping and being useful wasn’t really there so when Mirjam suggested I run English Zoom lessons for Kristina I jumped at the opportunity to do something more worthwhile. Luckily Kristina had a very basic understanding of English from her time living with a English couple when she was very young which meant we were able to communicate in a simple way (Google translate was very useful). So we started having daily lessons (with Sunday as a rest day) – to start with we worked through her English school book but it became apparent very quickly that although she was supposed to have covered many topics she hadn’t really learnt them.
So I went back to basics including getting her to memorise numbers (up to 1 million), days of the week and months of the year. Since the start the class has expanded to include Snizhana and Maxim and I am using the same techniques with them. They are all getting to grips with tenses and irregular verbs and we are moving on to expanding their vocabulary. Because Snizhana and Maxim are younger their English is not so good so for their lessons Kristina becomes my translator and assistant! It encourages me that they are all very studious completing the homework I give them each day and being on time for our lessons.
Their enthusiasm and keenness to learn make them a pleasure to teach. I appreciate that I am not a trained teacher but I think I am adding value to their life chances in a way that providing clothes and food cannot do. In return this has given me a purpose in these strange times along with a great deal of satisfaction. I am hoping to continue the lessons for as long as is practical and I can’t wait to visit Ukraine again and talk face to face with them:)
Here is a copy of a piece of homework Kristina did on the subject of our English lesson
P.S. – As Christina’s mother, I appreciate Stuart’s teaching highly. I can’t evaluate it because it has no monetary price. She will not be able to eat it, to lose it, to break it or to give it away. She will embrace her knowledge all through her life, and it will benefit her future. Sincere thanks to Stuart for his patience and his great heart.
/ Mother Tanya
A gift for life
I have been working with and helping the charity Childrens Embassy a Scandinavian charity set up to help families in Ukraine run by Mirjam and Boas Adolphi.
For over 13 years I have been visiting Ukraine and have helped several families and children financially which has been rewarding. It is satisfying to be able to see on the ground how the support has been of help albeit mostly in the short term. Food, clothes for children and occasionally some upgrading of their homes especially adding bathroom facilities and running water.
During the Coronavirus lockdowns it has not been possible to visit so it was suggested I could teach some children over Zoom. So I have been teaching Christina, Maxim and Snizhana for about 18 months now.
Christina who is 12 going on 13 has made tremendous progress and had a dream to visit Lviv in western Ukraine.
I had already planned to visit Lviv so when it was possible to travel to Ukraine and with Christina’s mother’s permission she was allowed to come with us.
I persuaded an adult female friend to come with us as a chaperone for Christina and to give her some female company.
So for 4 days Christina became my translator. This has improved her English such that she now can converse in English without thinking. It’s not perfect we still have to enlarge her vocabulary and improve her grammar but she has reached the point where I think she will progress very quickly now.
We tried to make the trip interesting and educational by doing guided tours (in English of course), visiting bookshops (Christina is an avid reader) and a lot of restaurants where she was keen to try out different dishes. All in all I hope it was a memorable trip for her and one that has raised her aspirations and motivated her to work hard at school to achieve her ambition to be a translator.
I have often said that giving money is easy but it often only provides instant relief (and there’s nothing wrong with that as that makes an important contribution to families immediate needs) but giving a skill like English is for a lifetime. As their mother put it they can’t spend it, eat it or wear it but it will give them something much more – an advantage for the rest of their lives.
And that makes me feel very good inside.
Text and photos by Stuart Holden
The article photo: Mirjam Adolphi
P.S Tack Stuart för värdefull volontärsjobb och allt det goda du gör. Jag hoppas att detta kan inspirera också andra att bli volontärer.
Är det något du skull vilja gör för barnen i Ukraina?