Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fall Projects and Peace Corps Come To A Close

Dear Family and Friends,

As I type this message the days I have remaining in Ukraine are sadly few. My how the two years have flown by! My last week in Velyka Lepetykha has been quite an adventure already with goodbye teas, final greetings on the street and a mix of emotions!

Before I close out my service though, I would like to write one more update blog on the activities that have kept me quite busy these last few weeks.

The weekend of October 7th-9th all female PCVs in the Khersonska Oblast were invited to a fellow PCV’s site of Chaplinka, southern Khersonska Oblast. Stephanie is a devote member of the Gender and Development Working Group of PC Ukraine and hosted a weekend mini GLOW camp for our Khersonska female students. GLOW stands for Girls Leading Our World and is an opportunity for young female students to learn how to become leaders in their community, gain project development and managements skills as well as work on their self esteem and learn more about sex and women’s health. Stephanie chose Human Trafficking as a main theme for the weekend camp and so we discussed this tough topic in depth with our campers.

The camp was held in Chaplinka’s Children’s Activities Center which has a gymnasium equipped with a gymnastics mat on which we slept! From our oblast we had 9 PCVs participate bringing 17 students with them to camp. I was luckily able to bring with me 3 campers – Yulia, Yulia and Masha of the 10th grade class! These women did an excellent job practicing their English, eagerly answering questions and participating in the lessons! We tie dyed shirts on Saturday, a first time for many of our campers! And we had a special presentation Saturday night made by the local Kozak foundation (Kozaks are ancient Ukrainian soldiers, a tradition which is still held to this day by men who enact presentations of Kozak customs and dishes). The girls had a lot of chances to practice their English and ask questions that the traditional school classroom setting does not offer the opportunity to ask, such as sexual health, a main topic of the extra questioning and time.

My three girls took away with them Jimmy Johns cups from Stephanie and certificates but the biggest gain was the knowledge that they have the power to do something great in both Velyka Lepetykha and in Ukraine. I was so proud of my students and I can’t wait to see what they do with this power and strength!

October for Americans of course means Halloween so once again I brought the Halloween spirit to my school! On October 20th (just before the Fall Holiday) I showed Casper to my 7th-9th graders and had a coloring competition between the 7th and 8th grade classes. In my 10th and 11th grades I brought in the tub and apples and once again hosted a bobbing for apples competition. The 10A class did the best job as they dove right into the tub to get the apples! Quite a sight! I’ve attached a few pictures below!

For my own Halloween celebrating, I traveled to Kharkiv for the annual Peace Corps Halloween party. However, in the afternoon some of the campers from ABC Camp hosted a Halloween Carnival. PCVs who staffed ABC as well as others joined the campers and their friends for traditional Halloween games, traditional ABC Camp games, a repeat after me song written by me! and lots of good times together again. The campers had prepared a song for the PCV Group 37ers who will be leaving this fall semester – it was a very touching moment! They gave each of us a hand made vareneky (Ukrainian dumpling) pin, which are so cute. It was wonderful to see how excited the campers were to see their friends and the staff again and to feel the excitement and energy for this summer’s upcoming camp! One of my campers told me that through her attending camp and participating on my team I have “changed her world” – moments like this show us how much we as PCVs impact Ukraine and its youth. I will greatly miss having ABC in my life and I cannot wait to hear of its success this coming summer!

On a side note – I would like to thank my best friend Page Piccinini for sending me her Starbucks apron, as it was quite a success with the fellow PCVs at the evening’s PCV party!

Upon return to Velyka Lepetykha for my final 2 weeks at site I bunkered down to complete the final portion of my PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) project -- an ongoing project which began as an initial thought in March 2010 and was still not fully complete! The final piece was a traveling brigade performing an educational script/play on the dangers of drug use and having unprotected sex and the rolls of both in the spread of HIV infection. I worked with the Children’s Activities Center’s Creative Director, Aliona, to put together a team of 9 students from the 11th grade class to perform the script that Aliona had written. My grant money paid for fabric and the sewing of identical blouses for the female students as well as lots and lots of red ribbon and pins for each student in attendance of the concerts to wear. After a week of rehearsals and ribbon cutting/pinning on Friday, November 4th we piled into the school van and drove an hour away to the village of Mikolaevka. The concert lasted only about 25 minutes but we had 28 students of the 7th-11th grade classes listen to the words of the performers. Next we traveled to Rubanivka where we presented to schools #1 and #2 with over 100 students of the 7th-11th grades view the concert. It was quite a successful day and the students did an excellent job!

On Monday, November 7th the brigades’ traveling around the county continued with a trip to Mala Lepetykha where we had 50 students from the 9th-11th grade see the concert followed by Velyka Lepetykha School #2 (Shannon’s School!) with 32 students of the 9th-11th grades and lastly my school with a great turn out of 66 in the 8th-10th grades. The costumes looked great and the students did an excellent job. I hope the words on the dangers of drug use and the need to use a condom to protect oneself against HIV infection sunk in to those students in attendance. I am so thankful for the work that the Children’s Activities Center completed as well as my students and it was an excellent project on which to complete my work here in Velyka Lepetykha!

Following the completion of my final concerts the stress and work of closing up shop here in Velyka Lepetykha began. I have already attended 4 goodbye teas with my schedule filled until I leave on Sunday, November 13th. I will then be traveling to Kiev to present to the training volunteers in Chernigiv and Kiev before I fly to Thailand on Friday, November 18th.

As I look back on all the work I have accomplished, all the experiences I have had, and all the people I have met in these two years, I feel so fortunate and appreciative of all that has happened to me in Peace Corps. It has been quite a ride with plenty of ups and downs, but the time in the end has flown by! I would like to thank all of you who have given me the support to complete this adventure! The emails, packages, Facebook messages, letters, phone calls etc, have all helped me to keep pushing forward! I am so appreciative and grateful for the support I have received.

I will be arriving in Minnesota on December 13th and look forward to seeing all of you again then!

For now I would like to wish you all a wonderful rest of your fall season and a very happy Thanksgiving!

Signing off from Velyka Lepetykha, Ukraine and Peace Corps,


Pictures Include:

GLOW Camp Chaplinka: 14
Halloween Velyka Lepetykha, Bobbing for Apples: 4
Halloween Kharkiv ABC Camp: 6
HIV/AIDS Traveling Brigade: 21
Visiting Vera’s friends for a goodbye tea: 2

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Description of Service

Dear Friends and Family,

As my days come to a close here in Ukraine, I would like to share with you one of the requirements I have fulfilled in closing my service - the writing of my description of service. Below you will find the very long document detailing all that I have done during my 2 year service in Velyka Lepetykha and throughout the Peace Corps community! It is quite impressive to see my accomplishments in writing and I wanted to share them with you all back home!

I will be sure to post one final update on my last projects and experiences at site in the coming week.

Happy November,


Description of Peace Corps Service

Megan Elizabeth Trout

Ukraine 2009 – 2011

After a competitive application process emphasizing professional skills, motivation, adaptability, cross-cultural understanding and medical fitness, Peace Corps invited Ms. Megan Trout into service as a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) in Ukraine.

Pre-Service Training

On September 27th, 2009, Ms. Trout joined the 37th group of Peace Corps Volunteers to serve in Ukraine. She entered an intensive 11.5 week community-based training program. The training program included 200 hours of Russian language training, 90 hours of technical instruction in TEFL methodologies, including six weeks of classroom teaching practice, and 40 hours of cross-cultural studies, including history, economy, and cultural norms. To reinforce language and cross-cultural learning, Ms. Trout lived with a Ukrainian family in the town of Boguslav, Kyiv Region, throughout training.

In preparation for her Peace Corps service, Ms. Trout taught at Boguslav Secondary School #1. While at the school, Ms. Trout taught English to the 4th, 6th and 8th grade students and began implementing the various methodologies that she was studying during the pre-service training. In coordination with four other trainees living in Boguslav, Ms. Trout organized a two-fold community project. Firstly, Ms. Trout developed a country studies map of the United States. The map highlighted American holidays and traditions and included a passage on each trainee, including: information on their state, family, education, hobbies and interests. Secondly, Ms. Trout developed a manual of classic American children’s songs and lyrics with accompanying lesson plans. Ms. Trout presented the materials to the English Department of Boguslav Secondary School #1, as well as the English Department of the Boguslav Technical School, in a seminar demonstrating ways in which the manual may be adapted to the English classroom.

Peace Corps Assignment

U.S. Ambassador John F. Tefft swore in Ms. Trout as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) on December 17th, 2009 in Kyiv, Ukraine. As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine, Ms. Trout’s program fell under the supervising authority of the Ministry of Education of Ukraine.

Ms. Trout was assigned to Velyka Lepetykha, a town of 9,000 Ukrainian and Russian speakers in the Kherson Region of Ukraine. She worked as a teacher of English at Velyka Lepetykha Secondary School #1, which has a student body of approximately 550 students and a teaching staff of 48 teachers. Ms. Trout was one of four English teachers at the school. She was overseen by the school’s director, Tamara Vasilevna Kybatko, and was directly supervised by her counterpart, Antonina Victorivna Kryvoviaz. Ms. Trout also worked closely with the two English teachers: Liudmyla Vitaliivna Hunko and Olena Yuriivna Kramska.

Primary Assignment
Velyka Lepetykha Community

Ms. Trout began teaching classes in December 2009. She worked primarily with students in the 5th through 11th grades, teaching the communicative method for 18 hours per week for two years (note: school years in Ukraine begin September 1st and end May 27th.) Ms. Trout taught the 5th, 6th and 7th grade students three times a week, while the 8th grade students met twice a week and the 9th and 11th graders met three times a week. In the 2010-2011 school year, Ms. Trout taught the 10th grade students four times a week.

In her first year, Ms. Trout developed a series of extracurricular English Clubs for her 7th and 9th grade students. Through these clubs, students had a weekly opportunity to speak English, play games in English, learn about American culture and traditions and watch English-language movies.

Ms. Trout increased the English language resources at her school with the help of Darien Book Aid. These new resources included elementary school level English language children’s books and poetry. Following the arrival of the books, Ms. Trout visited the 2nd grade classroom weekly to read to the students using the American children’s books.

Within the community, Ms. Trout lead an adult English Club which offered members of the community the opportunity each week to develop English communicative skills, practice English grammar and learn about American culture and traditions. Over Ms. Trout’s two years in Velyka Lepetykha, three members of the community were diligent in their attendance with another three members attending occasionally.

Throughout her service, Ms. Trout participated in the Coverdell World Wise Schools Program by becoming pen pals and corresponding with a 5th grade class at an elementary school in Faribault, Minnesota.

In March 2010, Ms. Trout attended the Peace Corps Ukraine 12th PEPFAR (Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) sponsored training on preventing new HIV infections and risky behavior. Ms. Trout attended the conference with Velyka Lepetykha Secondary School #1 Biology teacher and project counterpart, Tatiana Vladimirovna Pletyonnaya. Following the training, Ms. Trout and Ms. Pletyonnaya prepared a number of HIV/AIDS educational activities beginning with World AIDS Day 2010. On December 1st, students wore red in honor of those living with HIV/AIDS and in memorial of those who have died of the disease. Ms. Trout photographed the 54 students of the 1st – 11th grades, wearing red. The photograph was featured in the HIV/AIDS Working Group March 2011 newsletter, “The Cure.”

In the fall of 2010, Ms. Trout and Ms. Pletyonnaya successfully obtained a VAST/PEPFAR grant, in the amount of $983, to sponsor the project “HIV/AIDS Education for a Healthier Future.” This project developed a groundbreaking partnership between Velyka Lepetykha Social Services Center, Children’s Activities Center, Head County Hospital, Secondary School #1, and Secondary School #2. The project began by hosting four trainings in January and February 2011 to prepare the participants to be HIV/AIDS educators. These sessions trained 18 students of the 10th and 11th grades from Velyka Lepetykha Secondary Schools #1 and #2, as well as student representatives of the Children’s Activities Center, 26 adults from the five participating organizations and 54 health care workers from Velyka Lepetykha County, and the Head County Hospital. The trainings focused on the biology, transmission and prevention of HIV as well as the reduction of stigma and discrimination against those living with HIV/AIDS. Following the trainings, the educated individuals gave lessons in Schools #1 and #2 and the Children’s Activities Center. The lessons taught HIV/AIDS education to the 5th through 11th grade students. Following the lessons, students created posters presenting HIV/AIDS educational materials as well as hopeful messages for a world without HIV/AIDS. These posters were placed on display in the Children’s Activities Center. On March 3rd, 2011, Ms. Trout organized the “Youth Choose Health” concert in partnership with the Velyka Lepetykha Social Services Center. Eight schools in the region presented 10-minute skits on healthy lifestyles and HIV/AIDS education to further spread the word of HIV/AIDS awareness throughout the community. The PEPFAR project culminated in the painting of two World Map HIV/AIDS Murals in Schools #1 and #2. Ms. Trout organized the attendance and collaboration of seven Kherson Region PCVs to help complete the murals. Students, from their respective schools, in grades 7th through 11th, traced and painted the murals. The art directors of Schools #1 and #2 assisted in the organization of students and completion of the maps.

In the fall of 2011, Ms. Trout, in partnership with the Children’s Activities Center, organized a follow up concert to further spread the word of HIV/AIDS education throughout the Velyka Lepetykha County. A brigade of 12 students from the 11th grade of Velyka Lepetykha Secondary School #1 wrote, rehearsed and performed an informational play presenting the dangers of drug use and unsafe sex and their roles in the spread of HIV infection. The brigade traveled to 6 county schools to perform the play and distribute red HIV/AIDS awareness ribbons and HIV/AIDS educational booklets to those in attendance.

Ms. Trout also promoted clean water initiatives in Velyka Lepetykha. She wrote and received a grant, in the amount of $500, from Appropriate Projects, an initiative of Water Charities, to purchase and install a water filter in the cafeteria of School #1. Ms. Trout also purchased a water testing kit and in collaboration with School #1’s nurse, tested the local drinking water. Through the results of this test, Ms. Trout created a clean water initiative, which was promoted throughout the community to educate members on the importance of filtering water before consumption. The water testing results and clean water initiative were further shared with PCVs participating in the Environmental Working Group for distribution and use in additional communities. Ms. Trout repeated the water filter project in collaboration with PCV, Shannon Wentworth of Velyka Lepetykha Secondary School #2, writing and receiving a grant, in the amount of $420, from Appropriate Projects. The second grant purchased a water filter for School #2 to be used in the cafeteria for breakfast and lunch and to create a water fountain for student and teacher use.

Ms. Trout, in partnership with Svetlana Vladimirovna Artux, Home Economics teacher of Velyka Lepetykha Secondary School #1, also wrote and received a USAID funded Civic Small Project Assistance Grant, in the amount of $1505, for the project “Sewing a Stronger Future in Velyka Lepetykha.” The grant funded the purchase of 6 new electronic sewing machines, numerous meters of fabrics for the sewing of clothing items and bedding, a new iron, as well as sewing accessories including needles, threads, buttons and elastics. The project taught over 120 young ladies of the 6th – 9th grades how to sew clothing items such as pants, t-shirts and jackets, as well as the bedding items of sheets, blankets and pillowcases. Along with learning to sew, the young women were also taught women’s empowerment, independence through adopting new skills and the importance of volunteerism. Through partnership with the Velyka Lepetykha Social Services Center, completed sewn items were donated to both the Children’s Department of the Velyka Lepetykha Head County Hospital as well as to the children of women participating in the Social Services Center’s program for young, single mothers.

Ms. Trout, in partnership with the Velyka Lepetykha Center for Youth and Sport, led two Earth Day clean up campaigns. In April 2011 Ms. Trout organized the 10th and 11th grade classes to clean a path from the school grounds to the riverbank park one kilometer away. The clean up promoted awareness of littering among the students. Over 50 burlap sacks of garbage and recyclable materials were collected and properly disposed of through the support of the Center for Youth and Sport and town officials.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps, Ms. Trout partnered with Peace Corps Volunteer, Jacob Rodriguez in the Poltava Region of Ukraine to complete a video pen pal project between respective 9th grade classes. Videos with clips of students asking and answering questions were passed between each class. Questions regarded such topics as the unique qualities of one’s region, how to make borsch in one’s region, as well as more important topics, such as the most prevalent problems facing teenagers in their community. The project offered students the opportunity to connect with students of another region and to understand how the social problems facing teenagers can be both similar and varying throughout the country.

Lastly, Ms. Trout invited Platinum Bank to Velyka Lepetykha Secondary School #1 to put on a Posidelki Party, a monetary party in which students learned about money, savings and banks through playing such games as “Monopoly for Children.” In September 2011 Platinum Bank hosted two parties educating the 2nd and 7th grade students on the value of money and personal savings.

The success of Ms. Trout’s efforts and her projects in Velyka Lepetykha was frequently published in the local newspaper. Ten articles were printed describing project efforts, successes and commentary from participating organizations and project counterparts.

In Ms. Trout’s free time, she visited the Velyka Lepetykha Music School twice weekly for bandura lessons. The bandura is a traditional Ukrainian, plucked, stringed, folk instrument. Olga Valentinivna Kononenko taught Ms. Trout how to both play the bandura and how to read Ukrainian sheet music.

During her time in Velyka Lepetykha, Ms. Trout continued her study of the Russian language by working with a Russian tutor. She attended two weeklong Russian Language Refresher seminars hosted by Peace Corps Ukraine. Ms. Trout achieved an Intermediate High score on the Russian language proficiency test given by Peace Corps Ukraine. Her ability to communicate in the local language enabled Ms. Trout to better integrate into her community, gained her the respect of host country nationals, and better facilitated her work in Ukraine, especially in Velyka Lepetykha.

Secondary Assignment
Peace Corps Community

In addition to her activities in Velyka Lepetykha, Ms. Trout was very active within the Peace Corps Volunteer community. From September 2010 – November 2011, Ms. Trout was the acting head of the Kherson Regional Collaborative, which aimed at fostering effective teaching, leadership development, and resource sharing among volunteers. She also acted as the Regional Collaborative Facilitator for Southern Ukraine, managing 5 Collaborative heads in their mission to develop connections among volunteers in their regions.

Ms. Trout was a member of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), serving on the Educational Resources Committee and as acting head of the Water Task Force. In May 2010 Ms. Trout developed an innovative partnership between EWG and the Ukrainian NGO MAMA-86, an organization devoted to developing green policy and practices in Ukraine to improve standards of living for generations to come. While acting as head of the Water Task Force, Ms. Trout was part of a group that wrote a grant to create a nation wide water-testing project. In September 2011, EWG and their Ukrainian project counterpart, MAMA-86, were awarded a $600 grant from the Northern California RPCV Association.

Ms. Trout also served on the Tourism Working Group (TWG), developing guides for volunteers on traveling within and around Ukraine. Ms. Trout developed “Overview of Russian Visas,” a guide for obtaining a tourist visa to Russia for volunteers, which was published in the Spring 2011 TWG Newsletter “Traveler.”

Ms. Trout was an active member of the Safety and Security Council (SSC), acting as Vice President from January 2010 – February 2011, then as President from February 2011 – September 2011. In her tenure with the Council, Ms. Trout developed safety materials devoted to home safety, transportation and traveling safety, as well as personal safety tips for volunteers. Ms. Trout took leadership of the Cell Phone Loaner Program, which offered cell phones to volunteers who find themselves without a phone due to loss, theft or accident. Through Ms. Trout’s efforts, the Cell Phone Loaner Program increased three-fold in donations from exiting PCVs and four-fold in loan requests from current PCVs. As acting President of SSC, Ms. Trout was responsible for scheduling all council meetings and publicity, developing the agenda, and supervising meeting progress.

While serving on the Safety and Security Council, Ms. Trout, in partnership with fellow PCV Nazgol Zand and Serhiy Pashynskyy, the Safety and Security Officer, developed and introduced the Confidential Peer Response Hotline in September 2010. The Confidential Peer Response Hotline (CPR Hotline) encourages the safety and security of PCVs by providing volunteers with a confidential support for reporting any issues, problems, or incidents, and to act as a link between Peace Corps staff and volunteers whenever necessary. Ms. Trout and Ms. Zand organized the gathering of 9 PCVs in Ternopil, Ternopil Region on November 2nd 2010, to participate in the “Active Listening Training” held by PCV Chuck Serface. Following the training, Ms. Trout and Ms. Zand selected 3 PCVs to serve as active PCVs on the CPR Hotline. Ms. Trout was placed in charge of managing the Hotline and its active PCV advisors and to report on its use to the Safety and Security Officers.

In addition to her work with the Peace Corps, Ms. Trout was very active in the summer at Peace Corps Volunteer hosted summer camps. In July 2010 and 2011, Ms. Trout served as a counselor for ABC Camp, which prepared 70 – 80 Ukrainian youth to become future leaders of Ukraine through learning project design and management, leadership, debate, art, and sharing culture while also participating in team building activities and the implementation of social projects. In addition to acting as a team leader, Ms. Trout taught project design and management as well as sharing world cultures. In November 2010, Ms. Trout participated in a Mini ABC Camp held in Kupiansk, Kharkiv Region, led by PCV Tiago Forte. The Mini ABC Camp focused on teaching Human Rights with an emphasis on Human Rights in Ukraine.

In August 2010, Ms. Trout participated in MASCOT Camp, which provided 70 – 80 Ukrainian youth with lessons and opportunities to experience social awareness, cultural exchange and means to express one’s creativity through the visual arts. In addition to serving as a team leader, Ms. Trout taught project design and management, visual arts and an elective focusing on music and the influence of digital technology on musical styles and techniques. Ms. Trout brought three students of the upcoming 11th grade class from Velyka Lepetykha Secondary School #1 to attend MASCOT Camp 2010: Olena Pletyonnaya, Inna Stets and Alina Yevtushenko. Following the camp, Ms. Trout guided the girls in their completion of a “YES” Grant--Youth Engaged in Society--a grant funded by the International Outreach Coalition. With Ms. Trout’s guidance, Olena, Inna and Alina developed the project “Don’t Smoke: You are Your Future,” an anti-smoking campaign focused on presenting the truth about the dangers of smoking. The girls distributed pamphlets on the dangers of smoking to students in the 5th – 11th grades. Additionally, they made a special presentation to their fellow 11th grade classmates on the adverse effects of smoking to one’s health and body. Outside of school, Olena, Inna and Alina distributed pamphlets to members of the community, while discussing with interested individuals additional details regarding smoking’s effect on the body. Through this project the three students learned the skills of grant writing and management, as well as project design and implementation.

In July 2011, Ms. Trout served as a counselor for Camp HEAL in Okhtyrka, Sumi Region. Camp HEAL is the HIV/AIDS Working Group’s annual summer camp that trains 70 - 80 Ukrainian youth on HIV/AIDS, human trafficking, healthy lifestyles and project design and management. In addition to serving as a teacher and team leader, Ms. Trout raised funds for Camp HEAL 2011.

Additionally, Ms. Trout served as a counselor for Camp IKNOW 2011 in Kabane, Lugansk Region. Camp IKNOW is an annual summer camp for 20 Ukrainian secondary school students that focuses on issues surrounding the environment, leadership, and project planning. Ms. Trout worked as both a team leader as well as teacher, heading the project design and management lessons at camp. Ms. Trout was able to invite two of her students, Oleg Sosna and Jenya Borovich, from Velyka Lepetykha Secondary School #1’s upcoming 11th grade, to attend Camp IKNOW 2011. Following camp, Ms. Trout assisted Oleg and Jenya in the organizing of a clean up project involving their fellow 11th grade classmates. Ms. Trout arranged the partnership of the Center for Youth and Sport and the local government in the project’s completion, ensuring the transport of collected waste following the project. Oleg and Jenya presented to the 11th grade class lessons learned from Camp IKNOW, including the art of composting and recycling. Following the presentation, Oleg and Jenya divided the 11th grade into teams and cleaned the territory of the school grounds through the center of town to the riverbank park, collecting glass, plastic and general waste to be disposed of properly through either recycling or dumping in the local landfill. The project taught Oleg and Jenya the skills of project design and management as well as the importance of recycling and taking care of one’s community.
Lastly, in October 2011, Ms. Trout attended a Day GLOW Camp. GLOW, “Girls Leading Our World,” is a camp implemented and sponsored by the Gender and Development Working Group. Campers participate in activities and challenging lessons discussing such important topics as leadership, healthy lifestyles, project design and management, as well as others. In addition to teaching self-esteem to campers, Ms. Trout brought three 10th grade female students from Velyka Lepetykha Secondary School #1, Yulia Shinkaretska, Yulia Obdienko and Masha Gryba.

Pre-Service Training Participation

In addition to Ms. Trout’s efforts with her fellow Peace Corps Volunteers, Ms. Trout was also frequently enlisted to work with incoming Peace Corps Trainees (PCT). In December 2010, Ms. Trout participated in the Swearing-In Conference of Group 40. She presented to PCTs the works and opportunities provided by the various organizations, including Environmental Working Group, Safety and Security Council, Confidential Peer Response Hotline, and the Tourism Working Group. Throughout the Swearing-In Conference, Ms. Trout provided detailed information regarding site placement, primary and secondary assignments, Ukrainian customs and traditions, as well as the difficulties and successes of being a sworn in PCV.

Ms. Trout participated in the Peer Advisor Program advising PCTs Monica Funigiello and Laura Veno, of Groups 40 and 41 respectively. The Peer Advisor Program’s goal is to build an informative support system for incoming PCTs and newly sworn in PCVs. Ms. Trout advised the trainees on teaching English with the communicative method, developing one’s local language skills as well as tips for succeeding as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

In May 2011, Ms. Trout was accepted into the “Adopt a Cluster Program” for Group 41’s clusters of Boguslav and Myronivka. Ms. Trout spent three days with her two clusters; attending and advising her PCTs on their language lessons, English classroom teaching, English clubs and general host family difficulties and questions. Ms. Trout remained in contact with her PCTs throughout pre-service training and after Swearing-In.

Also in May 2011, Ms. Trout was invited to present at Pre-Service Training (PST) University for Group 41. In partnership with the Gender and Development Working Group, the Safety and Security Council, the Safety and Security Officers as well as the Peace Corps Medical Officers, Ms. Trout developed and presented the training “Sexual Assault and Harassment Prevention and Response.” This training presented unsafe scenarios relevant to the typical lives of PCVs in Ukraine, and asked PCTs to think through each scenario and determine the best response to ensuring one’s safety, including how to go about reporting such incidents. Ms. Trout developed solutions as well as tips for protecting oneself in Ukraine, and shared this information with the PCTs throughout the training. Upon the request of Mr. Douglass Teschner, Peace Corps Ukraine Country Director, the training and accompanying solutions and recommendations were sent to Peace Corps Washington for review and approval for their use in future safety material development.

Following the success of Ms. Trout’s participation in PST University for Group 41, Ms. Trout was invited to participate in PST University of Group 42 in November 2011. Ms. Trout assisted Mr. Thomas Ross, Director of Programming and Training for Peace Corps Ukraine, in the execution of the trainings “Sexual Assault Awareness” and “Sexual Assault Reporting and Response.” Through these PST University events, Ms. Trout was able to develop resources and supportive guidance for the PCTs’ personal safety awareness in Ukraine.


Following Ukraine's Declaration of Independence in 1991, and its decision to become an independent, democratic country, a bilateral agreement was signed by US and Ukrainian Presidents to establish a U.S. Peace Corps Program in Ukraine in 1992. Since then, US Peace Corps Volunteers have been serving in Ukraine in the areas of business development, education, environmental protection, youth development, and community development. Ms. Trout’s work as a TEFL Volunteer, as well as her role as a representative of the people, culture, values and traditions of the United States of America, was part of a nation-wide development effort in Ukraine.

Ms. Megan Trout completed her Peace Corps service in Ukraine on November 17th, 2011.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Summer Ends and Fall Begins

Dear Friends and Family,

Happy fall from Velyka Lepetykha! It has been over a month since my last post from Croatia and I have been very busy here in Ukraine!

Following my return to Ukraine I traveled out west to a new oblast for me, the Volynska Oblast. This oblast is located in the far northwest corner of Ukraine and hosts the most popular lake resort destination in Ukraine – a town called Svityaz. Last summer, a number of my Peace Corps friends traveled to this lake and spent a week lying by the water and cooking missed American dishes so I joined in the fun this year! It certainly made the transition back from Croatia much easier to be spending my time next to a lake after all my time near the sea! We made fajitas, fried rice, curry and a number of other spicy dishes we don’t usually get here in Ukraine! It was a delicious week!

When August 23rd rolled around, those from my group, Group 37, traveled back to the Lvivska Oblast to a town called Slavske. Slavske is a very popular ski resort in the winter but is rented out in the summer as a relaxation spot. Peace Corps rents out an entire hotel resort for the Close of Service conferences. It was the first time my whole group had been gathered together since our swearing in back in December 2009! It was crazy to see everyone again and due to the large size of our group – there were people I was still meeting! Our group arrived in Ukraine with just over 100 individuals. Then a chunk was added from PC Turkmenistan making us 112. At the COS conference we had 98 – which is a great end result! Some have gone home throughout these 2 years due to medical, grad school and Ukraine simply not working out for them, but to have so many make it the whole 2 years was wonderful! We even have 17 extending their service for between 3-12 months! The conference spent time talking about how to close out our service, how to say goodbye to Ukraine and how to prepare ourselves for our lives back in the states. Knowing that 3 months from then I would be leaving Ukraine really hit me hard – this has been my home for 2 years now and it is strange to think that soon it will be an experience of my past. It was great seeing my friends again. Of the Boguslav and Mironivka Clusters with whom I trained, we had all 5 of us from Boguslav make it to the Close of Service conference and 3 from Mironivka! I’ve attached a picture of our training cluster below! It was a great week spent together talking about our experience at site and our excitements to leave Ukraine and start our careers, grad schools and life back in the states.

Below is the link to our Group 37 slideshow. I submitted a lot of pictures and many were used in this presentation! The music has sadly been deleted but please check it out!


I got back to Velyka Lepetykha just in time for the 1st bell ceremony and start of my final semester in Ukraine. The 1st bell ceremony was just as I described it last year. The senior class (11th grade) line up on the school lawn, dressed in their Ukrainian school uniforms and receive flowers from the 1st grade entering into the school. Two 11th grade boys finish the ceremony by carrying two of the 1st grade girls on their shoulders while the girls ring the “1st” bell of the school year. It is such a cute tradition and I was excited to see one of my favorite 11th grade students, Sasha, receive the honor of one of these coveted rolls.

This semester I have a lot that I both need to finish as well as start and complete!! My sewing machine project has hit the ground running. Last spring I purchased 6 sewing machines and a lot of fabric with the grant I had been awarded. This fall, the young women of the 6th-9th grades have begun to receive sewing lessons in their Home Economics classes from Sveta, my project counterpart. I was able to visit the 8th grade class and watched the young women learn the art of preparing and cutting the fabric for sewing, threading the sewing machine and start to sew hems on sheets. The girls were super intimidated at first by the machines and pushed other classmates forward to go first but after a few girls took turns they were all fighting over who would be able to go next! It was a blast to see them push the foot pedal for the first time and have the machine take off sewing! The project plans to teach the young women how to sew not only sheets but also clothing items such as pants, shirts and jackets as their skills advance. These items will be donated to the children’s ward of the district hospital as well as to young single mothers through the Social Services Center. Sveta is so excited to use these machines and pass along the knowledge of sewing to the young women and I loved watching them experience their first sewing class! I’m excited to see how their skills progress over the new couple of months!

Outside of the classroom, one fun adventure I had this September was a trip to Kiev for the Kiev Marathon. In its 2nd year Kiev organized a marathon and 10 K (in May there is a half marathon too). The Healthy Lifestyles Working Group of PC Ukraine promoted the run and we had a wonderful turn out of Americans this year! Over 20 individuals ran the 10K and 9 ran the full marathon. Even better, we had also over 20 PCVs standing near the start/finish cheering the whole time! Ukrainians are not a culture of “woo – hoo ers” like Americans are. We screamed and cheered, clapped and organized high 5 rows as runners passed by. What was incredible was seeing the energy boost runners received after passing our line of screams and cheers. We were so loud and supportive that many Ukrainian TV crews came by and filmed us throughout the day! Our PCVs did an excellent job and made us all so proud! I was the unofficial mom of the weekend for 5 of the marathon runners by organizing our apartment, putting them to bed and getting them up for the run and taking care of the after party dinner reservations – it was great to be able to do my part to make their running weekend as stress free as possible! The weather was beautiful on marathon day and I got a lot of sun standing and cheering! Please check out the pictures of the runners below!

Also if anyone is interested in seeing the route or more on the Marathon check out the website below (there is an English version of the site!)


Back at site I’ve had a busy week. On September 21st Vera invited me to the neighboring town to see her perform with her choir. It was town day for the neighboring village and their concert included choirs from all over the oblast singing traditional folklore songs of Ukraine. Vera’s choir did a great job as well as the Velyka Lepetykha House of Culture choir! I road the bus with these women as they sang songs and cheered, excited for the concert! It felt a bit like being on the “A League of Their Own” bus with the women heading to the next baseball game! The women were so excited to have their own personal photographer too! On Saturday there was a folklore concert competition in Velyka Lepetykha along with Ukrainian traditional food tasting presentation and I attended with Shannon and took lots of pictures for the same women again! Shannon and I were overfed by these women with Ukrainian treats such as potato vareneky, sweet bread and garlic toast but we passed on the homemade vodka shots!

One final exciting experience I would like to share in this blog was the outcome of my two boys’ environmental project. While at Camp IKNOW, Jenya and Oleg had to come up with a project they could implement back at home. Though the project’s original idea was a bit over the top including presenting movies in the park to raise funds, the final version was more manageable and quite successful! On Thursday, September 22nd, Jenya and Oleg gathered their fellow 11th grade classmates into the auditorium and presented on the importance of keeping Velyka Lepetykha clean and beautiful. They presented on composting, recycling and environmental facts such as a plastic bottle takes over 1 million years to decompose! Following the presentation, in partnership with the local Center for Youth and Sport, Oleg and Jenya organized a clean up from our school to the river collecting glass and plastic bottles and other garbage items along the way. I was so proud of their efforts and have written an article to place in the local newspaper in the coming week! Below are pictures of Jenya and Oleg completing their presentation and clean up!

I now have less than 2 months in Ukraine and the work continues on! I am looking forward to finishing my projects and getting ready to get back to the states!

I would like to wish you all a wonderful fall season! I will check in once more before I leave Ukraine!



Pictures Include:

Close of Service Conference at Slavske (6)
Lviv following CoS Conferene (2)
1st Bell Ceremony (6)
Sewing Machine Project (5)
Kiev Marathon (5)
Town Day Concert (5)
Jenya and Oleg’s Clean Up Project (3)
Velyka Lepetykha Folklore Concert (5)