Ukraine Camp Update

Dobre- den! I would like to apologize in advance for any
English errors I may make in this blog entry – although many of the kids speak
English, my attempts to speak very broken Ukrainian have made my language
skills a bit hazy! Otherwise, life at camp in Ukraine is duzhe class-nah,
chuvak (very cool, dude). We arrived at Lake Swityaz last Friday and were
immediately impressed with how the camp has grown. Analu and I are staying in a
brand new building, there are nearly 70 kids participating (compared to 25 when
Analu was here in 2009), and counsellors are doing an amazing job of leading
the camp. Overall, I would say that a typical day doesn’t look a lot different
than a day at camp in Canada; however, with less tangible resources than we
have at home, I have been impressed by how Ukrainian leaders use their
creativity to consistently keep things fun, entertaining and engaging for

I have also been blown away by Ivanna, the president of
YMCA Volyn, and the presence and influence she has at this camp. Ivanna wakes
up an hour early to take the kids running and swimming. Considering she goes to
bed just as late as us counsellors, and works hard all day as well, it is fair
to say she is quite the impressive lady. She leads discussions with the kids,
and deals with problems in a very calm way that naturally attracts respect. She
embodies the concept of “leading by example”, which has clearly been
invaluable in the development of the Volyn association.

The lake here is beautiful and great for swimming,
however we have been getting lots of rain lately so we have had to be flexible
and adapt to constantly changing weather. Yesterday was Canada day, so Analu
and I had planned many activities. In addition to playing Canadian games and
singing some classic camp songs, we held workshops focusing on diversity and
multiculturalism, as well as First Nations culture in Canada. Despite having to
adjust our plans slightly based on the rain, I think our workshops were fun and
educational for the kids.

Other highlights of camp include a ‘Mr. And Mrs. Camp’
competition, amazing dance workshops (Ukrainian boys are the most impressive
dancers – who knew!) and many laughs over language mixups. Above all, I have
thoroughly enjoyed building relationships with the children and youth here. It
is a great example of how language is not the only means of communication, and
strong relationships can be built despite cultural differences. I notice many
similarities between YMCA Calgary and YMCA Ukraine participants, and how they
feel about being a part of the YMCA. Words such as family, caring, team, and
positivity are frequently used when kids describe the way they feel at about
camp. Many participants have told me that being a part of the YMCA gives them a
unique sense of community that they have never felt. Such remarks make me truly
believe that YMCA values really do transcend borders.

This afternoon Analu and I will teach a workshop about
health, focusing on oral hygiene. I also will teach some yoga for fun! With
only a few days of camp left, I am realizing it is not going to be easy to say
goodbye to the amazing children, youth and leaders we have met. That said, I
wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I hope everyone is doing well in
Calgary amongst the flooding, we are thinking of you!