Leave a trail!

Author: Anastasia Gavrylova

 Sometimes when things go wrong and I’m tired and disappointed I think about one girl. She studied at school and was dreaming of surprising her parents – by winning a contest and studying abroad for a year. The girl found a program, filled out application forms, prepared documents, went for an interview... and failed. She was terribly disappointed. No one could talk to her about it. She blamed herself for losing her chance. And it took some time to realize that achievements have never been easy and never will be. That to lose is harder than to win because you must be stong to keep going and still believe in yourself. It was a hard time but the girl made the right choice – she didn’t give up and accepted this loss as a first small step to a dream. Sometimes when things go wrong this memory helps me a lot...because this girl was me.


Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

Once I heard this quote from Emerson from my teacher. It inspired me. I don’t know why but these simple words made me think about changes, about searching for some new directions. That’s how I became involved in student self-government and joined a youth NGO. These were my personal paths and they turned out to be thrilling! By doing different tasks, coping with difficulties, finding a common language with people, creating new projects I found a wonderful opportunity to develop leadership skills and to bring my own ideas to life. It was an enjoyable “learning-by-doing” process – an understanding of leadership came from the actions. This summer I’m going to teach Civic Leadership in International Youth Camp and I’m going to tell students what I’ve learned myself: being a leader is not about being the first, the strongest or the richest, but it’s all about being yourself and being dignified! It’s the most exciting experience one can ever have.

Leadership starts with appreciating small victories. I remember my first contest and the day when the results came. I received a simple envelope with my name written on it. And inside there was a card with congratulations and my prize, the first $50 I earned. A few years later, I read an article about 11 principles of success by Bill Gates. And the words “You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both” made me smile – I thought about that first $50.

Being involved in youth movement provides a deeper understanding of leadership. Leadership is not the power to change the world – it’s an ability to inspire others. A good friend of mine knew that it’s impossible for one person to solve the problems of orphans. But he wanted to make a difference. So he created an idea of summer camp and asked people to join. An international team of young volunteers in a small Ukrainian village facing challenges every day made an AMAZING event for kids who have never had so much fun. The project was later awarded by a US university as a “good example of youth activism”. But the most valuable award for us was receiving letters from children sharing their emotions and asking if they could come again.

We called our camp Phoenix – just to remember that wherever you see ashes you can start a fire again.

Speaking about youth involvement in the social sphere there is always one more thing to mention: a person can find many doors opening in the world of diversity. If we want to build a free society - free of prejudice, intolerance, violence - we have to experience this diversity, to open the doors.

Being an active member of an NGO and representing youth initiatives is a chance to reach an international level. All the summer schools, training courses, youth meetings, summits and conferences are always a life-changing experience. They are the crossroads of cultures which are so different and so interesting to investigate and appreciate. Young active people are flexible and enthusiastic, they want to get the best of other cultures as well as to share their own ones. They know: living in multicultural world can be sometimes hard, but it’s always EXCITING!

Once I was taking part in a training course and I remember distinctly one morning when the participants gathered in the restaurant for breakfast. We were sitting at a table for 4 drinking tea and talking. There was a moment when I looked at our small group and suddenly realised that one of the girls was from Sweden volunteering in Moldova, another was from the UK (originally Greek) working in Lebanon and there was a guy from Austria who had lived in South America for a long time. It was in some way a positive cultural shock for me ant I felt so happy to be there, learning from these enthusiastic, experienced people, understanding and accepting their values. Also I realised we all were doing much more than just getting to know each other, communicating and having fun – we were building bridges between our countries and cultures.

What have I learned personally from social engagement? Now I’m able to work either individually or in team and take responsibility. I learned to enjoy challenges. I realized the necessity of being sincere, flexible, tolerant and devoted to work. Furthermore, my desire to represent  the history and language of my native country to other people became even stronger. At the same time I’m willing to become aware of peculiarities of other cultures, because that’s where intercultural learning starts.

Of course sometimes it’s hard – when you don’t feel supported and doubt whether you’ve chosen the right path.. But in such situations,  I’m always reminding myself:

I believe in volunteering as in the art of humanity and sincerity, that’s why I’m involved in it.

I believe in youth work as a source of change, that’s why I’m doing it.

I believe in youth collaboration as a way to establish an intercultural dialogue that’s why I’m promoting it.

It’s my style of life.

Do I want to give it up? No!

Do I want to share it? Yes!



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