The Summer 2015 English Camp was held at Camp Aist (“Stork”) that occupied 40 acres of a forest area in the Kharkiv County of Ukraine. Camp Aist had been known for its long history serving children-orphans, particularly special-need kids during summer breaks.
At the time of our visit, July 12-19, Aist was accommodating over 100 orphans from several boarding schools. We gladly accepted all who were interested and ended up having approximately 60 program participants. Our team consisted of 8 volunteers, both Ukrainian and American.
Our program included 3 hours of formal English classes every day (one session in the morning and one in the afternoon). Each student received a writing pad and a pencil. The classes were designed as interactive and fun. Every day, students explored a specific topic, like Clothes, Food, Animals, Sports, etc. Some of the activities became a real hit: The US Map Puzzle, Fruit/Veggie Guessing Game, Alphabet Song, Word-Search Contest, etc.
Besides the formal sessions, countless hours were spent on casual socializing that contributed to building long-lasting friendships. The campers were eager to learn about “life in America” and on our end, we were delighted to give these underprivileged kids some extra attention they often lack. It was obvious that our students really appreciated experience sharing, story telling, and simple casual chatting. It was also nice to see some of the children that had been previously hosted in the US through our Ukrainian Orphan Project.
Our team was quite impressed with our participants’ sincere interest towards English and their diligence in attendance. On a last day, all of our students and even some caregivers enthusiastically participated in creating a huge colorful “Thank You” banner – to thank all those who supported the project.
By the end of the course, we held an Award Ceremony. Each program participant received a gift and those with 100% attendance received extra prizes. A typical gift looked like this: toothpaste, toothbrush, socks, shades, beauty accessories, etc. all put into a cosmetic bag. Younger kids additionally received stuffed toys and Barbie-dolls. For many, if not for all of the girls, this was their first ever Barbie-doll, which was very touching. All campers, regardless of whether they participated in our classes or not, received a customized pen featuring our program, which read “Camp AIST. Ukraine. 2015”.