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Ukraine was the first successor nation of the Soviet Union to invite the Peace Corps to establish a program on its territory. Volunteers in Ukraine work throughout the country to help Ukrainians develop approaches to effecting positive change and skills necessary for communication in the global community.
Since achieving independence in 1991, Ukraine has taken steps toward representative democracy, political pluralism, and a free-market economy. Recently, a dramatic proliferation throughout Ukraine of small business startups and new community organizations signals a country on the move and a people increasingly taking advantage of their new freedoms.
In response to Ukraine's expressed needs, Peace Corps Volunteers work in the areas of community economic development, English language education, and youth development.
Peace Corps History
Main article: History of the Peace Corps in Ukraine
The opening of Peace Corps programs in the Newly Independent States corresponded with the beginning of the end of decades of mistrust and hostility between the United States and the former communist governments in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. In the decade that Peace Corps Volunteers have worked in Ukraine, they and their Ukrainian counterparts have faced and overcome a wide range of challenges. Suspicions harbored for years are difficult to overcome. Ambiguity and economic instability have been the norm in Ukraine during the difficult transition to integration with the West. Working and living in a country that is simultaneously deconstructing and reconstructing can often be confusing and frustrating. The Peace Corps has always prided itself on its ability to provide flexible and adaptable Volunteers, and the program in Ukraine truly tests this ability.
The formal agreement establishing Peace Corps/Ukraine was signed in May 1992 in Washington, D.C., by former Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk and former U.S. President George Bush. Since the first group of Volunteers arrived in Ukraine in 1992, more than 1,000 Volunteers have worked in three project areas: business development, teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), and environmental protection. Currently, more than 300 Volunteers work in more than 100 cities and towns throughout the country’s 24 provinces and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle
Main article: Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles in Ukraine
Although you will find a Western-looking environment in Ukraine, living conditions are not the same as in the United States, and you will have to make some adjustments in your lifestyle. Volunteers in Ukraine live in a wide range of sites, from large, European-style cities (up to 20 percent of the Volunteer population) to small towns or villages with few modern amenities (up to 80 percent of the Volunteer population). Generally, housing is in short supply; space is at a premium and accommodations will be cramped.
For your first three months as a trainee, you will live with a host family. This homestay is a part of pre-service training and will help you to learn about the Ukrainian culture, improve your language skills, and enhance your safety.
Then, for the first month (formerly three months) after swearing in as a Volunteer, you will also live with a host family. This homestay will help you integrate into your community, improve safety while you are learning to live in Ukraine, and provide maximum opportunity for ongoing language learning. At the end of this period, you and your family may decide to continue the living arrangement or you may decide to move into an apartment or dormitory. There are some communities, however, where staying with a host family is the only option for two years of service.
Main article: Training in Ukraine
The overall goal of pre-service training is to prepare you for safe and successful service in your future assignments and communities. The emphasis during training is on both adapting your existing skills and experience to the Ukrainian environment, as well as on developing new knowledge, skills and attitudes that will enable you to care for your own health and safety, work effectively at your sites and successfully integrate into your new communities. The program has five major components: technical training, language training, cross-cultural training, health training, and safety and security training. The homestay experience (living with a Ukrainian family throughout pre-service training (PST) is one of the most valuable aspects of training.
The training program recognizes that trainees come with a unique set of skills and experiences along with a well-developed sense of curiosity, independence, and the ability to adapt to new situations. Thus training is designed to provide trainees with strategies for taking more responsibility for their own learning.
Peace Corps/Ukraine uses a community-based model of training. Your entire training group will meet in the training hub only for the initial PST orientation (called an Arrival Retreat), for several days in the middle of PST (called PST University), and then at the end of PST (called Swearing-In Retreat). For most of the training period, however, trainees will live in clusters (in towns and villages located within two-to three-hour ride from the Peace Corps Office in Kyiv) with three to four other trainees, a language and cross-cultural facilitator and a technical and cultural facilitator (the latter will be shared by every two clusters). You will study either Ukrainian or Russian depending on your future assignment. In addition, you will be given various assignments in the community that will enable you to develop and apply your skills and experience. About midway through training, you will get your site assignment and have an opportunity to visit your future site and meet with your Ukrainian counterparts.
Health Care and Safety
Main article: Health Care and Safety in Ukraine
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the importance of health maintenance behaviors. The Peace Corps in Ukraine maintains a clinic with four full-time medical officers, who take care of Volunteers’ primary healthcare needs. Medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are available in Ukraine at carefully screened local facilities. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to an American-standard medical facility in the region or to the United States.
Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues
Main article: Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues in Ukraine
In Ukraine, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs are judged in a cultural context very different from their own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in Ukraine.
Outside of Ukraine’s capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What people view as typical American behavior or norms may also be a misconception, such as the belief that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Ukraine are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to cultural differences that you present.
- Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
- Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Gay Volunteers
- Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities
Frequently Asked Questions
Main article: FAQs about Peace Corps in Ukraine
- How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Ukraine?
- What is the electric current in Ukraine?
- How much money should I bring?
- When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
- Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
- Do I need an international driver’s license?
- What should I bring as gifts to Ukraine?
- After training where will my site assignment be?
- How can my family contact me in an emergency?
- Can I call home from Ukraine?
- Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
- Will there be Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
Main article: Packing List for Ukraine
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Ukraine and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. You can always have things sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have a 100-pound weight limit on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in Ukraine.
Luggage should be tough and flexible, like duffel bags and backpacks without external frames. When choosing luggage, remember that you will be hauling it in and out of buses and trains and often lugging it around on foot (there are no porters!).
- General Clothing
- For Men
- For Women
- Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
- List of resources for Ukraine
- Pre-Departure Checklist
- Volunteers who served in Ukraine
- Friends of Ukraine
- Inspector General Reports