"Our mission is to assist in the reformation of Ukraine consistent with European standards, as well as to introduce democratic values and develop civil society in Ukraine."

From the Statute of
the Center for European Initiatives

26.08.09 13:05

Camp Unity


On August 2nd, 2009, 32 Ukrainian youth and teachers from all over Ukraine met 12 counselors from Ukraine, the United States, and Nigeria in Sumy to participate in the 1st annual Camp Unity. Organized by US Peace Corps volunteers and the Sumy NGO Center for European Initiatives, this project was financed through the support of a Democracy Grant from the US Embassy and a Partnership Grant from the US Peace Corps.

Camp Unity was a 7-day session designed to teach Ukrainian youth diversity, tolerance, leadership, country studies, and public speaking. The camp was held in Kurgan, of the Lebedyn rayon, at a camp site that provided tents, sleeping bags, and cooking pots. The campsite did not have electricity, running water, nor indoor toilets. The harsh conditions made the sessions all the more interesting!

The first 48 hours of the session was a role-play entitled “Goat and Sheep.” In this role-play, participants experienced discrimination, scapegoating, xenophobia, and even a deportation. The campers were split into two groups: Shepherds and Goat Herders. They were told a legend about why the two tribes hated each other. The next 48 hours were spent on team building within the tribes, the performance of play retelling the legend of their tribe’s origins, and a game recreating a war between the two rival tribes. The finale was a duel between the best warriors, chosen from their tribes, to compete in a challenge that would determine who would win the war. The two warriors, when confronted with the truth of the origins of their tribes and with the realization that the legend told to them was false, created a truce between the two tribes, which included a marriage between a Shepherd boy and a Goat Herder girl to ensure peace. The facilitators of Camp Unity felt that it was important for participants from a homogenous society to experience prejudice and intolerance first hand. The participants experienced: how people become intolerant, what it felt like to be discriminated against, what it felt like to discriminate against another human being, and how easy it is to scapegoat a group of people.

The 7-day course was created to incorporate classes such as Intro to Tolerance, Leadership, and Public Speaking/Debate, as well as classes in Country/Culture Studies. The Country/Culture studies were chosen to represent groups that are in Ukraine today: Crimean Tatar, Nigerian, Roma, and Jewish people.

Participants were given a chance to speak about these issues in an environment, which fostered tolerance and understanding. One camper said “Never would I have thought that I was coming to a camp to discuss these issues in English. I have never even talked about the issues of discrimination in Ukrainian!” The camp was a great success with participants leaving the camp with changed views on ethnic groups in Ukraine and a greater appreciation for humanity.