Throughout the years, I have been able to meet people that have gone on to accomplish the truly impressive. I have friends that own/run multiple franchisees of an extremely popular donut chain, are entrepreneurs/owners who have started their own companies, are high ranking financial advisors, consultants and lawyers, are leading real estate agents in the country, executive producers, directors, editors, journalists, etc. The list is long (forgive me if you did not get a direct reference…), however I had never asked the question, “How do you do that everyday?” until just recently.
In mid June, I had the privilege of volunteering – I know – with an organization from the United States, The Ukraine Special Needs Orphanage Fund (USNOF). As an organization, they started in 2002 with the primary focus on intervention therapy education for Ukrainian organizations and schools. There are many people in Ukraine who are interested in this type of information, yet it is slow going from an exposure point of view – many of that is based on historical ideologies that are currently shifting.
Honestly, I had no idea what to expect. The Special Needs Working Group had been working on developing a more direct partnership with USNOF for years and last year we were able to send one member, Greg, to participate in a week long trip. He raved about the experience, said it was one of the highlights of his service to date. That being said, I was not going to miss the opportunity should it arise again. On June 16th, I joined four (a fifth showed later) other Peace Corps Volunteers and the USNOF contingent in the beautiful northwestern city of Rivne for an emotional ride I was not anticipating.
The trip started with a tour of the amazing facilities at the Pahanets early intervention center. Here, the children receive individual intervention therapy similar (autism, mobility, speech, etc.) to that in the United States and offers integrated classes; they one of very few in the country that do this. What originally began as small trainings given by members of USNOF has now grown into a full-blown conference with families, therapists, teachers, and trainers to discuss current and better practices.
…needless to say, we were impressed with what we say…
This is Pt.1 of 3 for a reason. During our week in Rivne, we also spent time at an orphanage for children with mental or cognitive disorders and an intake facility where children have been removed from their homes, for any number of reasons (similar to child protective services), and social workers investigate their living situation. I have many more pictures and stories to share, but want to highlight each place individually. Ultimately, at the end, it became clear to me that I do not have the emotional capacity to be a social worker…this will become clearer later.
To my friends and family who are therapists or social workers, Thank you!