In February of this year Hudson School alumnus and Peace Corps Volunteer Daniel R. P. Cline was evacuated from Haisyn, Ukraine along with the over 200 other volunteers serving in that country. While awaiting the decision of the Peace Corps as to whether they will be able to return to serve in the communities they have come to love, volunteers are back in the United States fulfilling their mission to teach Americans about the country they left behind and working on projects that can be completed from the States.
Mr. Cline and his colleague, Susan Dodenhoff from Dighton, MA, visited The Hudson School to enrich the students’ understanding of the former Soviet state. While speaking to a class of juniors and seniors, Mr. Cline and Ms. Dodenhoff explained the history of the region and gave the students some background information about the current crisis. Harriet Fitzpatrick’s World Civilizations class was intrigued to learn that Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, is considered “the mother of all Russian cities.” The students engaged in a lively dialogue with their young instructors about the roots of the current crisis, appreciating an informed personal viewpoint, which illuminated their study of this part of the world. In a slideshow that accompanied the presentation, images of beautiful Independence Square in Kiev, blackened and charred from the recent conflict, brought a saddened silence to the discussion.
Mr. Cline and Ms. Dodenhoff shared various aspects of their work in Ukraine, which they noted, is the largest country in Europe. They discussed the kindness of the people who have hosted them and expounded on the problems in this developing nation. Dan and Suzy, as they preferred to be called, explained their efforts to improve conditions by teaching the young people about gender and health issues. However, their primary Peace Corps assignment was teaching English in schools and spearheading community-based projects. Learning the English language is seen as a great benefit for the young people with whom they work. Ukrainians know that if they are able to learn English they will get better jobs and improve their living conditions in the future. From their American homes Mr. Cline and other returned volunteers recently created the testing for the English Olympiad, a nationwide competition that pits young scholars from every part of the country against one another in listening, reading, writing and speaking skills. Ukrainian teachers, who have worked with the Peace Corps Volunteers in the schools, conducted the contest, which is organized in partnership with the Ukrainian Ministry of Education and supported by the U.S. Embassy. Despite the absence of the Peace Corps Volunteers the Olympiad was a great success. The winners receive many prizes including advantages in university placement, so the competition was understandably intense.
One upcoming project that is part of Mr. Cline’s responsibilities and close to his heart is raising funds for Camp OHALOW (Overcoming HIV/AIDS and Leading Our World), a summer program that offers an opportunity for HIV-positive children to escape from the stigma of their disease in a safe and nurturing environment. According to their web site, OHALOW is designed to help the children by “providing them with an accepting environment to increase their knowledge about HIV/AIDS, foster social development, build leadership skills and practice designing projects, so that they may better serve their communities and live healthier, more fulfilling lives.” Mr. Cline hopes to return to participate in the running of the program, or at least be able to raise enough money from the United States to ensure that this summer experience will be available for these children. If you are interested in supporting this work, you can help Camp OHALOW by making a donation on their web site: http://www.gofundme.com/4vryqw.
Dan Cline mentioned that his experiences at The Hudson School and subsequently at Bard College broadened his horizons. When he was informed that Suellen Newman, founder and director of The Hudson School, is a returned Peace Corps Volunteer and member of the first group to serve in the Ivory Coast, Mr. Cline did not express surprised. Rather, he noted that the culture of the school reflects an understanding of the world outside the United States. Mr. Cline shared the thought that his hours of playing Diplomacy in a club instituted by his Hudson School history teacher, Jeffrey Gould, may have influenced his desire to volunteer for Peace Corps work. Whatever the reasons and motivations for their commitment, Dan Cline and Suzy Dodenhoff exemplify the tradition of caring, hard work and intelligence that have long been the hallmark of Peace Corps Volunteers.