Peace Corps Service often exposes volunteers to the unexpected; be it something cultural, personal, professional, etc. When I first arrived at site in June 2011, I had no idea where to start, what direction to go, heck, I had no idea what to “do” in general! I was just trying to figure out which market I should purchase food from and how to not get too lost in my new city. Fast forward to over two years later and I couldn’t be happier with my current situation and especially what influenced me to extend my service.
Through my involvement in the Business and Economic Development Working Group (BEDWG) and it’s Social Entrepreneurship Committee, the work I’m most excited about at the moment is a project which aims to utilize social entrepreneurship as a tool for development in Ukrainian communities where Peace Corps Volunteers serve. The project, titled “Eastern Rinok” (rinok means marketplace in Ukrainian), aims to teach Ukrainian artisans how to sell their handmade products to a global market by using the online marketplace, Etsy.
Peace Corps Volunteers partner with artisans wishing to learn how to use Etsy. Together, they complete a series of trainings that equip Ukrainians with the technological know-how to open and maintain an online shop as well as the business knowledge to create detailed product descriptions, self-promote, as well as develop customer service skills. The trainings are led by a Ukrainian instructor from the same community who has been trained to teach the artisans by a local Peace Corps Volunteer and is dedicated to helping them sell their goods. Once artisans have completed their training, they become members of the Eastern Rinok community of shops on Etsy, which greatly increases the ability to market their goods outside Ukraine.
The Eastern Rinok project has been in development since early 2012 and was first implemented at the beginning of 2013. Currently, our team has trained 8 instructors who have helped 28 artisans become members of Eastern Rinok. Collectively, the artisans have sold 75 items on Etsy, totaling $1,985.68 in sales! As the exchange rate for 1 US Dollar is about 8 Ukrainian Hryvnia and cost of living is fairly low here, I can tell you that $1,985 goes a long way in Ukraine!
As with any successful project, we want to this to grow. We hope to provide as many Ukrainian artisans as possible the opportunity to become members of Eastern Rinok, share their beautiful handmade products with a global market, increase their income, and thus their quality of life. The best way to help a greater number of artisans to earn this membership is to increase the number of Eastern Rinok Instructors the project has. That in mind, Peace Corps Ukraine’s BEDWG, which I am a member of, in conjunction with the Ukrainian NGO, “Discover Yourself Youth Resource Center”, would like to conduct a 3-day Eastern Rinok Instructor Training Seminar in November of 2013.
12 Peace Corps Volunteers interested in bringing Eastern Rinok to their communities will attend the seminar with a Ukrainian partner from their site who has agreed to become an instructor. After the seminar, the pairs will be ready to return to their communities and immediately begin to train artisans interested in selling their goods on Etsy.
In order to bring together future instructors and volunteers from all over the country for a 3-day seminar, we need to raise about $2,800. Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C. has approved our request to gather funds for the seminar from family and friends back home and use these donations as a grant for this project. To support our efforts to teach local artisans how to utilize technology in their entrepreneurial endeavors, make a 501(c)(3) tax-deductible donation directly through the Peace Corps website by clicking the picture below:
If for some reason that link does not work, go to peacecorps.gov, select “Donate to Volunteer Projects” on the left hand side of the page, and search Eastern Rinok Instructor Training.
To see all the current items being sold by Eastern Rinok artisans, click here.
To see the profiles of our artisans, go to: http://www.etsy.com/teams/13443/eastern-rinok/members
Visit the official Eastern Rinok blog: http://easternrinok.wordpress.com/
Find us on Facebook, go to: https://www.facebook.com/TheEasternRinok
Any questions can be sent directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you in advance for your support!