Education in Ukraine & Denis’s Dream
by Emily Millikan
In a recent video chat with staffers Yulia N. and Sasha T., I learned about Ukraine’s education system, and the story of Denis, an orphan student. Denis happened to be at the Day Center, so he came into the office for a few minutes at the end of the meeting. He shared a special dream that surprised everyone!
Denis at Last Bell camp
Before Denis joined us, Yulia and Sasha described the disheartening state of the Ukrainian educational system. Everyone wants to go to university, but few Ukrainians, even university graduates, find work in the field they studied.
Education is even more challenging for orphans. After 9th or 11th grade, most orphans go to trade schools, where some trades (like tractor-driving) offer no job prospects at all, and they may be placed in a trade they didn’t choose. Many don’t know how to study well, research, or use a word processor. And every message since childhood tells them they have no worth and won’t succeed.
Denis (third from right) graduating from the orphanage
Denis’s mother (now deceased) left when he was a toddler, and at six he was removed from his father’s care. He grew up at the orphanage in Berdichiv, which has a better school than most. Many of his classmates went to college or even university. Denis studies auto repair at a Zhytomyr college that feeds into the National Transportation University in Kyiv.
Denis is a strong student. But without family, he still needs support. His many health challenges include otitis, eye problems, and bronchitis that turns into pneumonia. Last Bell donors helped pay for eye surgery. We provide medication, clothes, and hygiene supplies.
Denis has attended the Day Center every day for the past two years. Like any teenager coming home after school, he has snacks and a hot meal, and uses the computer lab to research and print assignments. Staff members have become his closest friends.
Cleaning up the Shelter grounds; Denis in front with a trash bag
When Denis joined the video chat, he squeezed in shyly but comfortably beside Yulia, who translated. I asked how Last Bell helps with his education. He shared a list: English lessons; upcoming Ukrainian language/lit classes; the computer lab; having a quiet place for homework. He loves singing, and talked about singing at Last Bell gatherings.
Then I asked if he’ll be more successful because of Last Bell.
“I can study better,” he said, “and I realized I can enter the university – and not just for my profession (to be a mechanic). I have a new dream. I want to be a teacher. I see the leaders of the Day Center, and I see a good example of how I could talk to students.”
Denis helping set up a tent at camp
We know you share our hope and excitement that Denis and other orphans will beat the odds, thrive in their education, and give back. We’re working hard to find or create practical educational opportunities, so our 2019-2021 Strategic Plan includes exploring vocational trade certifications, building relationships with the restaurant business, equipping vocational mentors, and pursuing corporate partnerships in Ukraine. Please pray with us as we meet this need!