Hoping and Coping: Volunteering with Students Living in Ukraine

Sometimes you see something and you just know you cannot pass this opportunity by. That’s what happened to me as I read a post by my friend Marian on Facebook on Alberta Teachers volunteering with students in Ukraine. I then contacted David who coordinates volunteers for Smart Osvita and have never looked back.Your legacy in life is created by each life you touch. This is one way to connect with youth who are presently living in Ukraine that is meaningful. I could not pass this opportunity by.I hope you too chose to volunteer.

“This opportunity is going to be life changing for those kids, but it will also be life changing for Teachers, and School Counsellors and others who deeply care about youth”

 D Falconer adapted by @sspellmancann

A Volunteer Opportunity

If you are interested in volunteering on your own please contact David Falconer (see below) , but if you’d like to co-present with me please contact me at @sspellmancann on twitter

Background

David Falconer dffalconer@gmail.com . Volunteer recruiter Principal in Nunavut. More about David and his volunteer work with NGO Smart Osvita   

David signed on to a program that gives children who are presently living in Ukraine hour-long virtual lessons where they get to learn about a place in the world, or a topic of interest. The goal is to provide the youth with an hour that they can escape from their worries and focus on their well-being. So fortunately for me I got to present with my co-workers and wellness team Sheila Stacey and Deanne Arada two amazing counsellors who are passionate about making a difference for young people.

Ukrainian children log in to Zoom sessions at whatever location they can, then Falconer , teachers, School Counsellors and others tell them about life where they are and / or present a lesson. Our goal is to make it interactive , provide as much Canadian content as possible while being fun and letting youth escape the worries of the world.

Falconer has had up to 250 people taking part,in his sessions  providing Ukrainian children “an hour where they can dream and be totally separated from their current reality.” There are thousands of displaced students needing this support. 

Falconer said the lessons being organized are supposed to be educational, but “ultimately, the goal is to have these kids know that people care and indeed that is what we hoped as well. We have completed three sessions and plan on many more and we sincerely hope you do too. Our ultimate goal is to leave them feeling uplifted and hope filled and from their feedback we believe we accomplished this so far.

It is so important to not retraumatize youth providing them with a sense of safety allowing for activities that help them feel truly connected . When planning sessions presenters need to be mindful of this.

For youth who are affected by trauma, the teacher / school counsellor play an even more vital role. Volunteering in this capacity does makes a difference.

What You May Want to Know:

You can do this!!!! It’s fun and a great way to make a meaningful contribution. Feeling powerless like you can’t do anything …well yes YOU CAN, The students so appreciate what you do. They are absolutely amazing. The interpreter is so helpful and positive.You don’t have to do this alone. Find a co-fascilitator. We planned our sessions together and did a run through before each session which was so, so beneficial. We know you will love this experience too. So jump in and do it, you will be so glad you did!

Resources:

These are some potential resources for you, some may be applicable , so please use what works for you. Just be yourself, share some of your life and most importantly pass on a little hope.

Send a message to the people of Ukraine. We’ll translate it.


Please remember to practice self-care and share how you do with the youth. You will be in the presence of extraordinary acts of courage as you connect with these young people. Embrace all the moments.

Meichenbaum Matters

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There are some therapists who contribute more than others to the helping professions and Donald Meichenbaum is one of them. I have been privileged to attend a couple of his trainings. If you ever get the chance I suggest you sign up for one. I love that he has so generously given us resources that are not only practical, but helpful. If you are a School Counsellor/ Psychologist or Psychotherapist I know you will enjoy his book the Roadmap to Resilience . Bonus it’s free.

Thank you Dr. Meichenbaum for all the work you do with the melissa institute to help othersl

A- Z Tips for Alcohol Inks

  • Anything goes, have fun.
  • Be like a child and create.
  • Create, don’t critique.
  • Don’t give up … Don’t be afraid to try new things … pour and play.
  • Experiment with different papers like Yupo and different inks.
  • Forget about your worries and create art instead.
  • Get your space ready to play.
  • Have a blast. 
  • Imagine all the great things you will create.
  • Just be yourself and create what makes you happy.
  • Kindness matters when you start out. Everyone can do art and we all get better with time.
  • Let go and let it flow.
  • Mistakes make marvelous art pieces.
  • Music brings out the creativity in you . Listen while you create.
  • Practice , Practice, Practice.
  • Quit saying you can’t … you can!
  • Relax and let the paint take you away.
  • Safety matters, ventilation and masks make for a safe work space.
  • Trust the process.
  • Uplift friends who are new to alcohol inks.
  • Visualize what you’d like to create, then do it!
  • Watch lots of artists’ YouTube videos.
  • XO from me to you.
  • You’ve got this!
  • Zazzy that’s you and so will your paintings be.

It’s A New Year … It’s A New Day

2021 was an extremely challenging year for me. Loss, Covid in many of my family members, eye issues (plenty of those), plus many other unpleasant life experiences, so I need a new story for this next chapter. I need to bring passion back into my life. Life will always bring us tough times, some years more than others.

In 2022,

  • I will look forward to each day, creating new ways to find hope for myself.
  • I will do new things.
  • I will change my story to one of true acceptance of all the things I cannot change.
  • I will focus on opportunities instead of obstacles.
  • I will give more love to myself and those around me.
  • I will remember to be grateful that I am alive and acknowledge that I have much to look forward to.
  • I will choose to live fully as much as humanly possible each day.
  • I will be a better version of myself.
  • I will recognize that I am human and will have sad times, but I will not stay in those feelings.

I’m not finished yet and neither are you. It’s a new year … it’s a new day to really live. #walkalongwithme

All It Takes Is A Defining Moment

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For Desmond Tutu meeting Trevor Huddleston determined the path of his life. In my own life there are many defining moments that led me to who I am today. Teachers, coaches , community members and a School Counsellor had an impact.

In grade 12 (1976) my School Counsellor Mrs. Brown gave me $100.00 towards my post secondary education. My family could not afford to pay my way. I was the first in my family to go to University so it was certainly a big deal. I did not realize at the time just how much money that was or even how incredible it was that she did that. What a gift and an impact she had on the trajectory of my life. A lacrosse scholarship and a bursary ( both recommended by community members) paid for all four years of my Bachelor of Child Study degree. How fortunate was I ?

I never underestimate the power of a small (albeit grand) gesture in forming who we are and what we choose to do in our lives. I intentionally make sure each day I work with students I keep that in mind. I intentionally pay it forward on as many occasions as I can.

All it takes is a defining moment and you might be the one that makes that happen and if someone makes that happen for you tell them.

Books to Help High School Students Navigate Life

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I asked a few of my educator friends about a book they would recommend and here is the list. I’ll start with my favourite by Viktor Frankl. The rest are in no particular order.

1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

2. Tuesdays With Morrie

3. Wherever You Go There You Are

4. The Alchemist

5. Make A Dash

6. The Hate You Give

7. Fountainhead

8. The Upside of Unrequited

9. The Total Money Makeover

10. A Child Called It

11. Make Your Bed

12. Everything I know I learned In Kindergarden

13. City of Joy

14. Don’t Throw Sand in The Sandbox

15. 1984

16. Grapes of Wrath

17. To Kill A Mockingbird

18. Do What You Are

19. Netsmart

20. Financial Peace University

What book would you recommend?

Gratitude

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As we enter this thanksgiving weekend , I long for the big dinners I have celebrated with my longtime friends and kids for over thirty years.

However, I am grateful for what I do have my health, my life, the best friends ever and two amazing healthy adult children. My husband who continues to be such a good human being makes this pandemic easier for all those around him. My mom who lives far away, but still has a positive attitude given all her health concerns. A 91 year old mother in law who is healthy and full of vitality and positivity.

I am grateful for two brothers who have sacrificed so much for my mom. I am grateful I can help when I am needed in my community. This pandemic has hurt so many and if I can reach out and help, I am more than happy to do so. I am grateful to have a purpose and so much more.

So from my heart to yours, I wish you the best thanksgiving possible.

A Gift For Teachers

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Teachers deserve so much more than this for all they do day in and day out. This is my little treat for them as we enter World Teachers’ Day on Monday. It’s my small way to say thanks for who you are and what you do. Click here for a little gift.

Shedding A Little Tear As I Say Farewell

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This year I feel very sad to leave this safe haven and return to the big city , but I’m also excited to see my children and friends. Farewell Nova Scotia I look forward to my return next year hoping life looks a little brighter for all of us at that time.

Burn Out … Educators Take Care of Yourself

Just for Today I will take the necessary actions so that I don’t burn out during Covid 19. I will take breaks and put things on pause when I need to.

I think we all need this reminder today, but especially educators and all who work in schools. This is a very draining time for many. It will mean making a conscious effort to not overdo things. I know easier said than done.

Prioritizing your well being is essential. I know too many don’t really understand the work educators do, or how hard you are working to make this all work right now, but you do. There has never been a more important time where you need to prioritize your well being .These ten ideas are a few things you can do to take care of yourself during this time.

  1. Show yourself a little love. Get up a little earlier than the rest of your family and take 15 minutes just for you. A half hour even better. Make yourself a cup of tea and do nothing , just be by yourself and enjoy the quiet time.
  2. Get to work a little earlier, buy yourself some flowers to put on your desk even if working virtually, and take time to smell the flowers throughout the day.
  3. Take a lunch break , unless you are dealing with an emergency. Get outside, take a short walk and recharge. Exercise as much as possible each day at a time that works for you.
  4. Take a break from social media and the news. I avoid the news as much as possible these days. Get someone to tell you the highlights if you really need the news.
  5. Collaborate as much as possible with a colleague to lighten your load.
  6. Ask yourself what you can take off your plate.
  7. Recognize you are still coping with the effects of Covid 19 yourself and YOU do not have to do everything. Use positive self talk throughout the day. Say, I can get through today only and make it the best day possible.
  8. Let go of the need to be all , do all.
  9. Celebrate the things you are doing to make this world a better place. You show up for kids daily so that their lives can be better, acknowledge that.
  10. Go home early. You don’t need to live at school. You have a life , live it . Spend time with those you love and focus on how you can have a great life during this pandemic without burning out.

Don’t burn yourself out, take care of yourself today and every day. It’s the best gift that you can give yourself and your students.

If you have a tip for educators to help during this time please share in the comments.