This is the second installment in our multi-post series about real people of Ukraine as observed by our contriutor, Loren Braunohler. Loren is a former US diplomat who, until recently, was posted with her family in Kyiv, Ukraine.You can read the first installment here.
Ksenia and Alex
These are my friends Ksenia and Alex. They are real people of Ukraine. We met in a café near my youngest child’s preschool. It was Ksenia’s birthday that day and they were getting ready to travel to Greece to celebrate. We shared an immediate bond over our love of travel and reminisced about our adventures. They were warm and kind and you could tell that their love for one another was deep and strong.
We continued to stay in touch. Ksenia told me about all of the best kept secret spots in Kyiv and we were making plans to have an outdoor BBQ together when the weather warmed up, so that they could meet the kids and get to know my family better.
Ksenia is a dancer, Alex boxes. Together they have a beautiful life.
Before the Invasion
Ksenia and I keep in touch on social media nearly every day. She was buying beautiful spring flowers the day before the invasion took place. She and Alex were cool and composed in the face of an imminent attack; their bravery and heroism in line with what Ukrainians are showing across the country.
Since the Invasion
Earlier this week, Ksenia told me that she is sheltering with Alex’s grandmother in eastern Ukraine. Alex is fighting in a volunteer battalion. I cannot begin to imagine what their goodbye must have looked or felt like.
I’ve asked how we, as individuals, best can help. She said:
“there are a lot of people ready to stand in defense of our country, but not enough armor, helmets, walkie-talkies, knee pads, and other equipment.”
Ksenia doesn’t want to leave Ukraine because she wants to stay close to Alex and she wants to help obtain as much equipment for the volunteer battalions as she can. She says,
“We do feel support from all over the world and people all over, I’m simply unable to express how grateful we are, I can’t write without tears in my eyes.”
Stay strong and safe Ksenia and Alex. The world is on your side. We’ll have that BBQ one day.
Girl Scouts Troop 41501
These are Kyiv Junior Girl Scouts Troop 41501. They also are real people of Ukraine. My daughter had been begging me to lead a Girl Scouts Troop for years. I finally acquiesced. What a blessing it was for me. These strong, brave girls taught me so much; arguably more than I taught them.
We learned how to build fires, roast S’mores, take hikes and to navigate using compasses. We studied endangered animals, made hedgehog houses, learned about energy sources and how to be more energy efficient in our everyday lives. We made furniture from recycled material, knotted fleece tie blankets and created Christmas cards for orphanages during the holidays. We did all of this and so much more. There was so much curiousity, creativity, and laughter. We still had so many projects left to do and places to explore together. These were my daughter’s friends. These were my girls.
Two of these bright, vivacious young ladies, Katya and Lisa, are sheltering in Ukraine. Both have managed to leave Kyiv and are safe; for now. One mom says:
“Katya is really missing life before the war and meetings with her Girl Scouts Troop.”
Lisa spent a few nights in a bomb shelter and then made her way to western Ukraine, where it is safer; for now. Her father is helping to evacuate Ukrainians from the east and Kyiv to locations further west.
Please think of these girls and their families today and send them strength and courage.
#StandWithUkraine #usagso #girlscoutstrong
This is not an original post for World Moms Network from our contributor, who was formerly in Ukraine, Loren Braunohler. These posts originally appeared on Loren’s Facebook feed but are modified and reprinted here with the author’s permission. The images used in this post are attributed to the author.
Loren Braunohler is a former U.S. diplomat turned stay-at-home mom and freelance writer. She is a world traveler who avoids the cold (don't ask why she is currently in Poland). Former assignments have included Mozambique, Venezuela, Australia, Sudan, Thailand and Washington, D.C. She enjoys running, although she probably enjoys sleeping even more. Loren blogs about her family's international adventures and parenting at www.toddlejoy.com.
Lack of sanitation. Universal education. Poverty. Global Health. How is it possible to introduce a group of 70 kids about some of the world’s largest problems and how to solve them in one night — plus make it fun?
Well, last month I helped organize “World Thinking Day” for the Girl Scouts in my town of Holmdel in New Jersey, USA. The day was celebrated on or around February 22nd by Girl Scouts and Girl Guides in 146 countries, and the theme for 2016 established by the Girl Scouts was “Connect.” As a Girl Scout volunteer and a global activist, World Thinking Day was where my worlds were about to collide!
To start, the idea of connecting the girls with what problems to be solved came from this viral Google quote I found in my Facebook feed one day:
“Don’t ask kids what they want to be when they grow up but what problems do they want to solve.” YES!! In order to inspire future problem solvers, we needed to find some problems. And it’s actually not difficult to find the world’s most pressing problems — there’s a list!
We ran straight to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are the 17 global goals world leaders set out to achieve to help eradicate poverty and make the planet a better place. And With Girl Scouts that ranged in age from 5-years old to high school teenagers, we needed presentations and activities incorporating some of the goals which would keep their wide range of interests and attention spans!
We chose to introduce the girls to the concepts of SDGs 1-6: no poverty, no hunger, good health, quality education, gender equality and clean water and sanitation with the help of Save the Children, WaterAID and a kit purchased from Sole Hope.
On the day, 70 girls rotated through four World Thinking Day stations. Two stations were “presentation” stations and two were “maker” stations, where the girls would be hands-on. Upon arrival, we had tables set up in the center of the room for the girls to convene with their troops and have a snack. They also received their schedules of what station their troop would visit and in what order. Before beginning the rotations, we started the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance and the Girl Scout Promise. Then, they were off!
World Thinking Day Presentation Stations
We invited Save the Children and WaterAID to the event to present to the girls. Each brought a slide presentation and projector, and their enthusiasm for the work they do was relevant in how fantastically they engaged with the girls. They were introduced to how global nonprofits were applying solutions to solve some of the world’s biggest problems.
Save the Children
At the Save the Children station, girls learned how the organization helps children in over 120 countries. They were shown photos of what classrooms look like before the organization goes in and after. Save the Children is creating better, safer learning environments for children around the globe.
Carmen from Save the Children educating a troop of Cadettes about their programs worldwide that are making a difference in the lives of children.
In 2014 Save the Children helped over 160 million children worldwide! Being kids themselves, the really related to helping children and the photos of seeing the organization in action were engaging.
“It was cool because you can also help one kid who needs help at Save the Children.” — Sophie, Brownie (on sponsorship)
At the WaterAID station, the girls had the opportunity to line up and try to carry a jerry can half full of water and imagine what it would be like if they had to carry that can to fetch water for their family. They also learned how over 1 billion people do not have access to a toilet on the planet!
Manuel and Merry from WaterAID presenting to a Daisy Troop about how their organization helps communities gain access to clean water.
WaterAID explained why clean water is important to prevent disease and how so many people around the world lack access to it. They introduced the girls to ways in which their organization is making an impact in creating access to clean water in different countries.
A Girl Scout Cadette attempts lifting a jerry can half filled with water at the WaterAID station for World Thinking Day. These containers are a way in which some children around the world fetch for waters for their families.
“I was surprised how heavy the yellow container was, and it was only half filled. How do kids carry that?” — Sophie, Brownie
World Thinking Day Maker Stations
World Mom and Anti-poverty mom, Cindy Levin, introduced me to Sole Hope, an organization whose goal is to provide shoes to children who need them most to prevent infection. I ordered a party kit online, and we asked the troops for donations of denim. At the station, the girls learned about how going barefoot can lead to painful foot parasites in some places on the globe. They cut patterns out of the old jeans and plastic that would be made into shoes for children in Uganda.
A Girl Scout Junior troop measures out patterns for cutting out shoes for children in Uganda out of recycled denim and plastic.
We also showed the girls photos of what the finished products would look like.
“I loved helping to make the shoes. They are so cute!” — Brownie, Ally
Girl Scouts’ SWAPS
What’s a Girl Scout event without making SWAPS? SWAPS are an old tradition of exchanging keepsakes among fellow Girl Scouts met while traveling. The acronym stands for “Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere.” The girls were led in making keepsakes to commemorate World Thinking Day 2016. Their SWAPS included gold and silver puzzle pieces to commemorate connecting with friends, as the lyrics go:
“Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold!”
Girl Scouts creating at the SWAPS station to commemorate World Thinking Day!
It was so fun to intertwine the UN’s global goals for the planet into the Girl Scouts’ World Thinking Day. We were able to introduce over 70 girls to problems that children like themselves face around the world and they had the opportunity to meet some of the change makers that are providing solutions on the global stage — we definitely gave the girls something to think about!
(After all was said and done, our town’s Girl Scouts had some money left over from the event that they chose to donate to both, Save the Children and WaterAID, too!)
Do you have a Girl Scout or Girl Guide who participated in World Thinking Day this year? Let us know what they did to commemorate the day!
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by World Mom, Jennifer Burden, who is the founder and CEO of World Moms Blog. *Special thanks to Leaders, Janice Petretti and Heather Behal who also helped plan the event!
Jennifer Burden is the Founder and CEO of World Moms Network, an award winning website on global motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. World Moms Network writes from over 30 countries, has over 70 contributors and was listed by Forbes as one of the “Best 100 Websites for Women”, named a “must read” by The New York Times, and was recommended by The Times of India.
She was also invited to Uganda to view UNICEF’s family health programs with Shot@Life and was previously named a “Global Influencer Fellow” and “Social Media Fellow” by the UN Foundation. Jennifer was invited to the White House twice, including as a nominated "Changemaker" for the State of the World Women Summit. She also participated in the One Campaign’s first AYA Summit on the topic of women and girl empowerment and organized and spoke on an international panel at the World Bank in Washington, DC on the importance of a universal education for all girls. Her writing has been featured by Baby Center, Huffington Post, ONE.org, the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life, and The Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists.” She is currently a candidate in Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in the Executive Masters of Public Affairs program, where she hopes to further her study of global policies affecting women and girls.
Between the ages of 4 and 16, I was a Girl Scout. I sold cookies, calendars, cans of nuts; went camping, learned to tie knots and start campfires; made new friends, crafts and sewed badges on my vest (or, rather, my mom probably did that one). I completed my Silver Award, but dropped out of the Scouts before I could reach the Gold Award. Being a Girl Scout wasn’t cool, and I gave it up.
Considering I only had one more project to reach the top of the Girl Scout pyramid, I’ve always been slightly disappointed in myself for quitting. The organization was fun, and it was a place where I developed close friendships. I even worked for a short period of time at the local office.
I always imagined my own children would be Scouts. I imagined camping trips, teaching them to tie knots (I used to be really good at tying knots), helping them earn badges, and watching them make a bunch of new friendships that would last the rest of their lives. (more…)
Roxanne is a single mother to a 9-year-old superhero (who was born 7 weeks premature), living in the biggest little city and blogging all about her journey at Unintentionally Brilliant. She works as a Program Coordinator for the NevadaTeach program at the University of Nevada, Reno. Roxanne has a B.A. in English from Sierra Nevada College. She has about 5 novels in progress and dreams about completing one before her son goes to high school.