May 25, 2021

Volunteers teach English to Ukrainian young people

Can international volunteers personally help a child in Ukraine during the pandemic? Absolutely! 12 young people at the Munich International School helped 12 disadvantaged young people in Ukraine to improve their English conversation skills through weekly online tutoring from January to April.

Everyone saw improvements, with students gaining confidence, expanding their vocabulary and practicing what they learned at school. Speaking and listening confidently is a valuable skill to have, partly because English opens up job opportunities in Lviv’s IT and tourism industries.

The young people in Ukraine were 12 to 19 years old, and were either fostered or in low-income families where children often rely on crisis centers for additional support. The tutors in Germany were in their final years of secondary school.  We started off with a training session for the volunteer tutors, then introduced the tutors and students to each other.

There was nervousness on both sides at the start. Some students felt shy about making mistakes when they spoke or struggled to find the right words. Online translation tools were a great help and the tutors were creative with finding methods and resources that worked well for them. While some focused on grammar to assist with school work, others would select a short YouTube video to match the student’s interest and then have a conversation to summarise and discuss the video.

We provided ongoing support, with Bohdana Luhova helping to confirm meeting times and supervising progress. At monthly Tutor Review meetings we shared ideas and discussed any issues. An information pack is being prepared for the next series of tutoring sessions.

We presented this volunteer initiative at an online Duke of Edinburgh meeting for participating schools in Germany, and there are four schools where teachers would like to get volunteers involved for our next English conversation tutoring course in September.

Every tutor saw progress in the three months and gained useful experience with cross-cultural communication. Most importantly, they completed their volunteering knowing they had helped to encourage lasting improvement to the English conversation skills of a young person with personal challenges in Ukraine.