"Ivano-Frankivsk is the City of Numerous Public Spaces and Friendly People"

Ashley Graves-Roesler, the volunteer of Peace Corps from the USA, will work with “Teple Misto” team for 2 years. She and her husband decided to share their experience outside their country as volunteers of Peace Corps. She worked in the sphere of strengthening of local community in her city of Indianapolis (Indiana State). This Governmental Organization is working in 60 countries all around the world (from 1950 in the USA and from 1992 in Ukraine). The purposes of Peace Corps are assistance in society development, promotion in relations among countries, increase of leader and professional habits in society and help in learning English or discovering American culture by other countries and vice versa.

Sharing of own experience

— I worked as a fundraiser in Indianapolis for 10 year, most recently for the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site public organization. My personal activities were related to volunteering for city society,  closer neighborhoods ,and creating cooperative places for citizens.

I took into account different art-projects for community that was related to trainings, contests and exhibitions. I was taking part in fundraising for Benjamin Harrison Museum — 23th President of the USA. It was interesting story from our history. He was the only President from  my state. We are proud of him so much. For example, we organized projects of leadership developing for citizens, students. We shared debates about civil society and democracy to encourage our community to take part in government.

Also, I took part in a so-called “giving circle”. This circle is uniting a lot of young professionals of our city. We get fund and give some grants every year (something similar to “City Grants” Program from “Teple Misto”). For example, they were grants for bookstores, City Park, updating school library. All of this projects created young professionals because for their resources, volunteering energy and desire to create positive changes.

My husband Bryan and I wanted to work in international sphere after that experience for sharing it with others. As Peace Corps has suitable program, we have been interesting about it. It was the great opportunity to work at a different place, meet new people, and discover a new country. Therefore, we sent our application to the Peace Corps. Volunteers don’t know where he/she is going to be sent, but Peace Corps selects the most suitable place for you according your professional skills and habits. We are sharing our cultures: I give mine to you and vice versa.

“I see a lot of opportunities for community growing in Ukraine”

— I think that I am the luckiest volunteer of Peace Corps because of Ukraine, Ivano-Frankivsk, and “Teple Misto”. In my opinion, “Teple Misto” is involved in progressive movement. This example is noteworthy, especially in the international community. As for me, all of the “Teple Misto” programs are very interesting. They are partially connected with my previous experience. I see growing interest in fundraising and its models in Ukraine. Of course, there are some challenges, I should look after them and observe. In general, I am so happy to connect with an organization that is working to build civil society: urban studies, developing of the community, creating principles of mobile stability.

We were excited when discovered the place of our volunteering in March 2016. We had not any dealing with Ukraine before. However, my father and grandfather were working in Ukraine at 1980-1990. So, I heard a lot from them. We were communicating with Ukrainians from Indianapolis when preparing for the mission. They told a lot about Ukraine and treated us with Ukrainian dishes. I checked Instagram profiles of Ukrainians, Bryan read Wikipedia.

I lived in Chernihiv for 3 month before Ivano-Frankivsk. There were Peace Corps trainings. Also I was in Kiev for a short period. There are a lot of interesting places for me in Ukraine. However, I will visit those later, because according to the rules of Peace Corps: “Your head sleeps in your bed” (volunteer should be in the place of service to get to know local community, discover the city). Every time we should get used to new environment, find out where is needing stores and so on.  Also there is the language barrier. I am learning Ukrainian, but it is not enough for fluent communication. All these are challenges. I need some time to integrate into a new society.

The first impression about Ivano-Frankivsk was great. There are a lot of interesting buildings, public spaces, and bunch of activities here. Also there are many interesting people that form a strong social core. Sometimes Ivano-Frankivsk is like a small village, because you meet friends on the street very often. Generally, the city and society are friendly. I tell my friends and family that it is pleasant and safe place. I haven’t discovered everything here yet. I intend to do it carefully, because it is one more opportunity to open new comfy places for myself and meet new people. I like to walk in City Park  (it is on the way from my home to the city center).  Also I like the way children here are passing their leisure: they walk, play on the streets together without the supervision of adults. It is not considered safe in my city in the USA. I think, I should better understand Ukrainian society. I try to read, visit different events. As for me, Ukrainian civil society has a lot of opportunities for growing, joint initiatives creating relationships between people and strong connections in the community.

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