In summer 2017 I visited School #76 in Lviv and met with my teacher with whom we are connected on Facebook. Natalya Tuldukova was teaching in School #76 for more than 40 years. It was so lovely to re-connect after more than 15 years I graduated from the school and to remember the time when I was a student. Natalya Tuldukova taught me Foreign Literature from Grade 7 until Grade 11. We studied pieces of literature from many countries around the world. I enjoyed all the classes as it allowed me to dream that one day I can travel and see the world where different authors wrote their novels, poems etc.
During my 2017 visit, Natalya Oleksijevna did a tour for me at the School. When I entered the foreign literature classroom, I was surprised to see that the classroom desks were not changed from more than 15 years and there were not many new books on the shelves. We discussed the ways how to find the resources to renovate the classroom. I have learnt that the Government of Lviv only offers 1800 UAH (90 CAD) yearly for all the School to buy new desks which is just enough for 3 desks in one classroom. It will take 7 years to renovate one classroom. The School has 30 classrooms, and each one has 20 desks and 40 chairs. There is no city funding for chairs. Ukraine is still at war against the Russian occupation of its Eastern territories so the national, regional and municipal governments cannot add to the existing funding for education.
I took a couple of pictures and offered to create a GoFundMe campaign. I thought that maybe in 40 years there would be enough alumni who can support the School to renovate the foreign literature classroom. The School has a Facebook group with around 1000 members, so I thought maybe 2 CAD per member and the foreign literature classroom could be renovated faster than waiting years of very limited state support funding. In January I created the campaign which was only for alumni of the School, but we were unsuccessful. Former classmates contributed approximately 300 CAD which was not enough to reach the 2000 CAD goal to buy the desks and GoFundMe refunded to everyone who used the system as I did not set up withdrawals until the goal is met. However, we raised some money through personal donations (approximately 500 CAD), so anyone can still donate directly to Natalya Oleksijevna to reach the original goal.
In summer 2018 I visited Lviv for short time when I was going to Lutsk Conference. I connected with Natalya Oleksijevna again and after reviewing lessons learnt from the original fundraiser offered to check if my Facebook community can help and plan to have a one week fundraiser during my 5th Canadian Birthday with the hope that this time we can raise 500 CAD to buy some classroom supplies for the new academic year.
I haven’t used Facebook as a fundraising tool in the past as I use it more as a professional information and communication sharing channel with my former students, colleagues, classmates and people I met around the world as well as my family communication platform (private messaging). I also use Facebook as an education tool to share my travel experiences and strengthen social work education around the world. Facebook also did not allow me to create a personal fundraiser through their platform as it is not benefiting me directly, so I used GoFundMe tool again, but instead of School alumni network, I posted a link on my Facebook page.
I am very fortunate that I have people on my Facebook who check it regularly and were able to support the campaign. We were successful through the generous donations of my Canadian and Ukrainian family and friends to raise the needed funds.
On August 8th I visited the School and pass all money raised (500 CAD=10000 UAH which is approximately five years of government funding for desks to the entire School ) to my teacher so she can buy the needed School supplies. I also went to the local bookstore and got one copy of all the books for foreign language curriculum grades 5-11 so students who might not be able to afford the textbooks will have an extra copy in the classroom to keep learning.
Natalya Oleksijevna was very happy and asked me to take more pictures to make sure that all the donors know that the money was transferred successfully and asked me to thank all the people who used personal funds to support her classroom. She also asked me to write the story of the fundraiser and hope that more school alumni can visit the School and be part of the community.
Fundraisers are a great tool to support the individual causes. However, they are not sustainable solutions for existing problems in School educational system in Ukraine. Fundraisers can help raise awareness about concerns and might achieve their goals, but more structural changes are needed in Ukraine to create adequate School funding system. The future generation of Ukrainians needs to have access to the classroom spaces with modern equipment and teachers have salaries sufficient to focus on their key responsibilities to research and to share their knowledge and to inspire younger generations to succeed in life. I hope one day that system will be built in Ukraine. Until then fundraising efforts are necessary to keep raising awareness about the challenges of current educational processes and educating the future generation of kids.
I am grateful to all those who donated to the 5th Canadian Birthday fundraiser and supported the needed effort to keep promoting foreign literature education in School #76 in Lviv. Your generosity and caring I will treasure for life. I am grateful that in Canada I have a privilege to teach and research and is not required to fundraise for classroom supplies. I hope the Government of Canada on all levels will keep strengthening its funding for education as there are still a lot of inequities in access of education services in Canada that require structural changes. Fundraisers remind us that we can all make positive changes in a way we can in many parts of the world.
PS: Thanks to my former students I have learnt about the e-transfer system, so in future, I do not plan to use GoFundMe platform to maximize the direct transfer of funds without having a third party involved. However, I enjoyed the transparency of GoFundMe system. For all future donations to Nataliya Tuldukova classroom, please connect directly to her via her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100015044537465.
Anyone has an idea for 6th Canadian Birthday Fundraiser (up to 600 CAD), please let me know as I am grateful to be living in Canada and thanks to having the support of my Canadian family and friends together we can make a small difference in many parts of the world.