Interview with Lyudmyla Vovk

Meet Lyudmyla Vovk, POC Lead in Ukraine

Tell us a little about your background. What were you doing before the war?

I am not a teacher but I was fortunate enough to join this super-interesting and challenging field for the last few years. I worked with children in alternative educational children’s projects, such as summer camps and two private schools. I had the opportunity to learn from some of the best innovators in children’s education. This was the first instance where I felt lucky to be surrounded by incredible people on my team, but not the last.

How does the war affect your daily life?

We had moved to Lviv two years before the war. Although I rarely heard explosions nearby, that changed in March. The emotional atmosphere intensified, and I regularly experienced floods of tears in the middle of the street. I didn’t have acquaintances with whom I could partner in quality volunteer work. So I took it upon myself to host several NGOs in my apartment and bake for the military on the frontlines. This helped keep my hands busy and bring some order to my mind.

Why did you decide to work at Nova Ukraine?

In April 2022, Irene Smovzh, a friend of my husband’s, asked if I knew someone who could volunteer at Nova Ukraine. I didn’t have details about the specific position, but I strongly felt that I needed to join this team… The next day, I was added to Slack. Most of the communication happened on American time, the manuals were constantly changing, but I stayed with it and figured out the protocols (almost!). 

What’s your typical day at the office like? Please describe your daily activities and tasks.

Like all coordinators, my primary responsibility is communicating with partners and tracking requests in the CRM. My “additional duties” include organizing the work of our team in coordination with the foundation team. I consider myself an introvert, so all of this communication sometimes exhausts me. 

Can you share with us a particular story that struck you?

I would like to share a story about one of my partners. Olena Osadcha founded the “I Know You Can” NGO in Dnipro City. This organization helps people with disabilities in their city. Nova Ukraine started supporting them in June 2022 and continues to support them now.

Olena herself is in a wheelchair, the result of a rare bone disease called osteogenesis imperfecta. In her childhood, she experienced a bone fracture every month. Nevertheless, she continued to study at home. She looked for courses and training because she didn’t want to depend on anyone. When she faced difficulties, she often heard, “I know you can.” She worked with the city administrations to promote inclusivity and accessibility and helped other people with disabilities. Later, with the support of friends, she founded “I Know You Can.”

Olena is one of those partners who has everything in order. She handles aid procurement and reporting by herself and also assists us with additional questions regarding other projects. She is always active. People like Olena are not only a motivation for personal growth but also one of the reasons why I’m part of NU. When I face challenges in my role, I tell myself “I know I can.”

What do you think Ukrainians need the most right now? (Besides victory.)

Ukrainians need to believe in themselves and value individual worth, we are all needed now. We must negotiate with each other so each citizen contributes to our victory.

What is the most challenging part of your work at Nova Ukraine?

Besides being an introvert who is now a lead coordinator, the most challenging part of my work is taking responsibility for assessing partnership requests for assistance in a balanced and objective manner. It is so difficult to refuse those who are in need.

What is the most rewarding aspect?

Seeing the results of our joint projects in photos. It is really moving to see those who have finally received what they need the most, something to smile about in the midst of this crisis. 

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