Anna Zhovnir: "Facing new challenges"


Sometimes, even in a comfortable and measured life, there's a moment when you realize that I'm doing something wrong. I need some changes. I need to face new challenges. Wouldn't long-term volunteering overseas be the best option for this? That was precisely what happened to me. My name is Anna, I am 23 and since the end of August I had been a volunteer at the Montessori school Jasan, Nedvedice, for four months. In July, I was an average Ukrainian teacher and employee of the education department and suddenly realized that I required radical changes.

International volunteering was the perfect way for me to fulfill this need. I started looking for a project that would interest me. The various countries and fields of activity did not meet my needs. Suddenly there was an announcement about the search for volunteers in the Czech Republic, in a public primary school, where the volunteer will be involved in activities with children of primary school age. It was a perfect match! A familiar favorite work in which I already had some experience, and, at the same time, a complete change of environment. A new challenge in the form of spending several months in another country that I had not visited before — I got everything I needed at that time.

And here I am, in the cozy picturesque Nedvedice, a few more days before the beginning of the school year. So I help teachers with the preparation of educational materials and have enough time to explore the place where I now live. I was looking forward to the beginning of the school year, I knew what the Montessori method was, but it was only a theory, and I really wanted to see how it was put into practice. The result did not disappoint. I remember feeling delighted when I attended my first lesson. I followed the teacher's demonstration as closely as the children. But I'm not sure what I liked it better then: the original clear presentation of the lesson or how inspired and interested the teachers were and how much they managed to convey their mood to the children. I was incredibly lucky not only to see the Montessori method in practice, but also to take part in it myself, helping students with English or even conducting my own lesson.

In addition to the activities at school, I participated in the on-arrival training, which helped a lot to understand why I am here, what I can gain from this project, and what I can contribute in return.

Volunteering is not only school days and trainings, I had plenty of time to travel around the Czech Republic and Europe in general, visit cultural events with the participation of local artists. All this in the complex, classes at school, travel, acquaintance with local residents, made it possible to get acquainted more deeply and better understand Czech culture, compared to the point of view of an ordinary tourist. As for me, the Czech Republic is an extremely rich country. There is a magical nature, majestic historical monuments, a powerful cultural layer, modern infrastructure necessary for life, but this is not the most important. I realize that the people who accompanied me on this journey played a major role in the fond memories I have of this time in my life. The coordinator of the organization, who from the time I applied for participation in the project until its completion, answered all questions when something was not clear to me, helped to solve any problems and difficulties and simply gave advice that I needed. Teachers and parents of students who helped me to get used to Nedvedice as much as possible, attracted me to various cultural events here, supported me in interacting with children and always said: "If you have any questions or difficulties, you have my number!". Other volunteers made the time spent here even more pleasant and made it possible to get acquainted with not only Czech culture. And in the end, other locals, communication with whom was not very significant, but still became an important touch in the overall impression of my overseas volunteering: it's the local vendors who patiently waited and advised me when I was trying to deal with local coins, conductors who were able to answer my questions despite the language barrier, and other ordinary people who assisted with minor difficulties that could arise in daily life.

Thank you, Czech. It was an unforgettable time. I'm sure that thanks to everything you gave me, I became a different, better version of myself.