Before coming to the United States as an exchange student, World Link FLEX alumna Vira Grabchuk ’19 (Ukraine/CO) started the Charitable Youth Theatre Company, which raises money for disabled children in her home community. During her exchange year here, her passion and motivation to be a disability rights activist ignited even brighter. Immediately upon returning home, she began implementing the new skills she learned through World Link’s Leadership Program.
Here is Vira’s story:
Hello, my name is Vira Grabchuk, a FLEX and World Link alumna of 2019. I have just finished my freshman year at the university, where I study English and German philology, translation, and interpretation. I also work as an ESL teacher at a local language school.
Besides my work and studies, I am committed to making a difference in my community. That’s why I’ve become a FLEX City Representative (CR) of my hometown. During my term as CR, I have organised 12 different projects such as charitable performances, disability rights campaigns, free English lessons for underprivileged youth, and a bookcrossing between the East and West of Ukraine.
Charitable Youth Theatre
I had established my main project – “Poklykannia”, a charitable youth theatre, a year before I went on exchange. While in the U.S., I did my best to work with my team remotely. To raise money for a deaf orphan from my hometown, I organised a charity concert in my American high school called “Hear Our Voices”, which included performances in foreign languages as well as American Sign Language.
At the same time, I connected with my theatre company and had them perform fundraising concerts in Ukraine, so we had concerts happening on both continents on the same day. My team from Ukraine even recorded a touching “Thank you for supporting us” video that was featured during the concert in the US.
On that day, between the concerts in Ukraine and the U.S., we raised $1000 USD for this deaf orphan. I should note here that part of the funds went towards publishing an ESL textbook for kids, which the publishing company generously donated profits from the textbook to this deaf child in Ukraine. This made me even happier since English teaching has always been another passion of mine.
Developing My Skills
Being a World Link student empowered me with useful tools in project management. The grant writing workshop as part of the World Link PAL-NYC Advanced Leadership Conference I was selected to attend, gave me the skills to write a successful grant application.
As I returned from the U.S. and resumed working as a chief manager and director at my theatre company, I applied for grants. In 2019, we won the Merelyk Grant, a grant created by the Ukraine Global Scholars. I was one of the first recipients of this grant.
The grant money we received turned out to be essential for the project. With this money, we could afford appropriate and much-needed costumes and decorations, but most importantly we became able to tour around Ukraine and spread our ideas of creativity and art combined with charity.
One performance we put on, “The World Should Know”, commemorated the victims of Holodomor. These performances not only educated the audience about this tragic event but also raised $150 for a local family who adopted 11 children with severe disabilities.
We visited this family at Christmas time with donations from the community and the money we fundraised, which we gave directly to the parents. We surprised the kids with 13 large boxes full of Christmas presents. It was the first time our theatre ever organized a holiday community service, but we are now planning to continue working in this direction as well.
Here’s what our actors say about their involvement:
We do good deeds with the theater and I think that’s great. When we visited a special large family, I saw their happy eyes, sincere smiles, felt their hugs. That was incredible! am happy that I was able to entertain children for whom this life is more challenging than for others, but they don’t give up and this is truly amazing! – Tasha, 17
Honestly, I am super excited to be part of our theater. It is kind of new experience in my life because I have not been volunteering before. The main thing I like in our theater is that actors combine a pleasure and a good deed at the same time. There are a lot of cruelty and violence nowadays and we (actors) change it by performing on the stage, addressing the audience, spreading love and kindness.
Also, I like the friendly atmosphere during the rehearsals and the support I get from my colleagues. I appreciate everything our director does for us as well. I am thankful to the theater for becoming my family. – Alina, 17
The motto of our theater is “art meant to help”. This is our vision and mission as well.
We want the art we make to be helpful and meaningful. This is our way to change the world for the better.
For now, due to COVID-19, we switched to remote work in the theatre. Instead of performing live, we are recording the play as a podcast. To listen to it, users will have to transfer a voluntary donation for children with disabilities in the community.
We perceive this crisis as an opportunity to try something new. But, we do hope that soon we will be able to resume live performances. We want our theatre to extend beyond my city. We hope that clusters will soon be established all over Ukraine, and maybe even the world.
World Link would like to thank Vira for taking the time to update us on her successes as an alumna. Her passion to help those in need and the work she is doing is truly inspiring. We are proud to have her in our World Link family.