Ukraine trip update

Hello from beautiful Lutsk!

After ten fantastic days at camp on Lake Svityaz, Analu and I are enjoying some R&R time at Ivanna’s house. Although we were tired from working long days at camp, it was sad to say farewell to kids that we had become quite close to. In the end, I can honestly say that the language ‘barrier’ didn’t prove problematic in these circumstances. Somehow, we were able to build strong relationships and communicate with the kids in many other ways.

Throughout the last few days of camp, I think that everyone would agree that the ‘family’ dynamic grew even stronger. Judging some very entertaining evening competitions, leading s’mores-making workshops, and playing some Canadian style camp games were a few of many highlights for Analu and I. We also managed to pick up on some local traditions, and learned a bit about how to become proper Ukrainian ladies. Between making vareneki (perogies), getting my hair done in a typical plisteeh (braid), and learning some Ukrainian dance moves, I felt happy to be very immersed in the culture.

After saying a few emotional goodbyes to camp participants, and having a peaceful evening at Ivanna’s, we met Volyn leaders at the Lutsk YMCA to debrief camp. I have really enjoyed exchanging ideas with these dedicated leaders and developing a deeper understanding of how their association works. They are very open and eager to get feedback from us, and I feel like as a team we are able to come up with some very strong ideas. The Volyn leaders and us Canadians exchanged very positive feedback with each other, which was a nice way to wrap things up. Their kindness truly made our experience unforgettable. On one hand it was sad to say goodbye, however I have a feeling that through the YMCA we will manage to stay in touch, which makes the goodbyes a bit easier.

Today we spent the day exploring Lutsk with the help of a few local tour guides/YMCA leaders. In addition to seeing a few sights, we had the opportunity to cheer on a fellow YMCA leader at his university graduation ceremony. Igor from Lutsk was getting his Masters in Physics, and we decided it would be fun to experience a graduation, Ukrainian style. Despite incorporating a few more cultural traditions, it was actually quite similar to a Canadian ceremony. This experience, as well as exploring the quaint city of Lutsk, made for a truly great day.

Tomorrow we will travel to L’viv with a few of the Lutsk leaders. We found out that L’viv’s local association will be holding a special event – a concert in a hospital that specializes in treating kids with cancer. We will also visit several other YMCA programs there, and of course make a bit of time for exploring what is meant to be one of the most beautiful places in Ukraine.

I hope all is well in Calgary, we will write again soon! Dopo bochnia/see you later!