The Icing: Instructor Training

This past weekend, my active, in country Peace Corps service came to an unofficial end. After months of preparation, conversations, changes, signatures, and approvals, we held our much-anticipated Eastern Rinok Training of Instructors. I will be honest, as I told Laura (the other Peace Corps volunteer coordinating the training with me) right before hand, I was nervous going into it. I wasn’t nervous that we might not be able to do what we wanted, but nervous because this was the first volunteer-sponsored training of this style in Ukraine – in fact, we had to get special permission just to hold it. Thankfully, Peace Corps Ukraine staff has been and continues to be extremely supportive of this project. I couldn’t have been happier with how our training went!

Eastern Rinok has been steadily growing as a project. We are currently working on creating new, more advanced trainings for current artisans, transitioning to a new, more professional blog, and updating current training material. This is a group effort and each member of the leadership team plays an important role. Currently, there are around 25 active shops on Etsy, a great number! Yet, those shops are only in eight communities, predominantly in the eastern portion of the country. We saw this as an opportunity to really expand the project to additional communities, ideally in the southern portion of the country (Crimea especially for its Tartar population) and the traditional Ukrainian west.

Designed as a step-by-step process with screen shots, videos, “how to’s” and even homework assignments for the artisans to complete, the trainings seem pretty self-explanatory. However, it is inevitable that questions will arise. Trust me, no matter how many times something is read, going through at least one training is much more valuable.

This was what we hoped to accomplish:

We wanted to not just expose Ukrainian instructors and American PCVs to the material, we wanted all of them to approach and view the information from the eyes of an artisan. We wanted to spend time answering questions, explain why something was the way it was, provide tips and nuances not covered in the material so that each pair will be ready to “hit the ground running” once they return to their communities.

I’m trying to contain myself here, but in my opinion, we pretty much nailed it! Our team worked perfect together.

Ashley has become an integral part of the future development of Eastern Rinok. Here, she is explaining some of the future trainings.
Ashley has become an integral part of the future development of Eastern Rinok. Here, she is explaining some of the future trainings.
Discussion on Customer Service Scenarios
Ukrainian Instructors
Ukrainian Instructors
Watching an instructional video
Watching an instructional video

We were able to provide Ukrainian instructors and PCVs the opportunity to see and begin to use the material. In addition, we were fortunate to have two of our most successful artisans come to speak about their experience with the project and how it has positively impacted their lives. Combined, they have sold 40 items!

Elena Nechyporuk, Owner of Taitallas Handmade. Click to visit her shop
Elena Nechyporuk (left), owner of Taitallas Handmade. Click the picture to visit her shop
Tatyana Samoylenko, Owner of Silk Heart. Click the picture to visit her shop
Tatyana Samoylenko (left), owner of Silk Heart. Click the picture to visit her shop

In addition, we were able to have two dear friends of mine, Dave and Sveta Malenfant present (the day after they were married), to provide additional strategies for holding trainings, discuss problems one might encounter, and show the instructors how to provide a high level of support to the artisans without “handholding.” It is important to mention that Dave and Sveta have been a part of Eastern Rinok since the very beginning. Dave and another PCV, Stuart King, created the material and Sveta undertook the painstaking task of translating all of the material into Russian. Needless to say, without them, there would be no Eastern Rinok.

Dave and Sveta on a recent trip to the states
Dave and Sveta on a recent trip to the states
The day before the training, they were married. This might be my favorite wedding ceremony picture.
The day before the training, they were married. This might be my favorite wedding ceremony picture, ever.

The project would not have been possible without our two Ukrainian partners, Veronika Sotula and Viktoria Maserskaya. Regardless of one’s grasp on another language, hearing an explanation of something in your native tongue is always more efficient. These two women not just helped with preparation of materials and organization, but they were able to present the information in a way that makes sense to Ukrainians – EXTREMELY IMPORTANT!!

Laura and Vika handing out certificates after the training was complete.
( L to R) Laura, Vika, and Nika handing out certificates after the training was complete.

Finally, to our amazing donors, without whom, this project does not happen. We were tasked with raising over $3,000 to financially support this training endeavor and without their support, our undertaking would have been exponentially difficult. We finally have the list of the donors, so they will hear from us soon! For those who anonymously donated, since we cannot send you an email to thank you, we want you to know that your contributions were not in vain, you have my word. We have now doubled our instructor base and I can only imagine how many additional Ukrainians your generosity will benefit from your generosity. THANK YOU!

Laura and I undoubtedly saying something extremely important
Laura and I undoubtedly saying something extremely important
Discussing how to set up payment options for Ukrainians
Group wrap up
Group wrap up
Group Shot
Group Shot

This was a full circle project for me. The location we chose, Chernigov, was where my Peace Corps assignment started for me. The conference center where we hosted the training was the same place where I spent my first two days in country. I’ll admit, once we had finished our last session, I got really quiet. It hit me: I was done.

In the near future, I will be a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) and that will never change. Ukraine and it’s people have given me more than I can explain. I have learned more about myself in the past two and a half years than the previous 28 before I arrived. This has been something I will cherish for the rest of my life and will truly reflect on later. For now, Слава Украине! (Glory to Ukraine!)

Where it all began, Chernigov, Ukraine
Where it all began: Chernigov, Ukraine




6 thoughts on “The Icing: Instructor Training

  1. Mr. Isaac, I know you will believe me when I say I teared up reading your post. So happy and proud. Thank you for putting your stamp on this project and making it something special. Can’t wait to have you back stateside. Congrats on finishing strong.

    1. Thanks man. If you and Dave hadn’t come up with the idea over chai and put in the time and effort you did…you wouldn’t even be reading this. Props to you, my friend! As I told Dave and Sveta, thank you for the opportunity to even hold this training. Be back soon enough, we’ll plan something soon. DC is just a train ride away haha

    2. Love this post, Pete. Missing you already and you’re not even gone yet. Can’t imagine collaborating on a project more easily than I did with you on this one. I know you’ll be successful in everything you do, and I hope you know I’ll be there to support you every step of the way!!

  2. You’re not done, dude. 🙂 Next time I see you, I’m buying you a scotch (one that you’ll like, I promise). Congratulations! Sorry I’ll miss you, but just wanted to say you done good. Down the road…

  3. Good work, buddy! I’m speaking for America when I say we’re glad to be getting you back! I know Ukraine’s gonna miss the hell out of you. Hope to see you soon.

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