Emily's Teaching + Missions - USA, Ukraine, Africa

Emily's Teaching + Missions - USA, Ukraine, Africa

From Emily Grenier

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Support me in my work with orphans in Ukraine and teaching kids in impoverished and rural areas of Africa!

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Update #3

6 months ago

#GivingTuesday
I love the idea of a day in the midst of the holidays dedicated to helping the lives of others. I'm so excited to be traveling to rural Uganda in 2020 for a teaching internship & missions trip. This is an amazing opportunity and one I can't participate in without the support of others. While I know it will require a lot of funding, I'm still so excited and ready for this opportunity.
The details aren't all finalized yet, but here's my website for updates :)
Hope you all have a great holiday season! ❤

More Info

"If you think you're too small to make a difference, you've never spent the night with a mosquito." - African Proverb

Hi! My name is Emily, and I'm a Junior at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs working towards my Bachelors of Innovation in Inclusive Early Childhood Education. My passion has always been working with kids, and I've recently realized through preschool teaching and volunteering multiple summers at a camp for orphans and disadvantaged kids in Ukraine how much I want this to be my next step in life.

My goal is to teach kids in impoverished and rural areas of Africa. Though I don't know all the details yet, I know how much passion I have for this, how hard I'm willing to work, and how many people I have supporting me. Because teaching and working overseas are expensive, and the majority of my work in Africa will be volunteer-based, I know how much my success and the impact on the kids I have the opportunity to work with will require the financial and emotional support of many amazing people. Please consider supporting me and these kids in what happens next!

Continue on to read updates and my full story! 

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"What would you do if you weren't afraid?" 

In the Spring of 2019, I found myself sitting in a coffee shop with one of my best friends. It was almost the end of my Sophomore year, and somehow the question “what would you do if you weren’t afraid?” entered our conversation. Over a cup of coffee in our favorite small town coffee shop, slowly an entire dream I didn’t know I had came pouring out. As the weeks went on, each close friend I spoke with told me I needed to do this. I could think of nothing else for weeks and finally found myself with the group of high school girls I work with at a youth group. One of these girls came up to me that night and said “I just feel like I’m supposed to tell you that you know what you’re supposed to do. Stop being afraid and just do it.”

That night, I decided. If teaching in Africa is what I was supposed to do, then I’ll do it.

Making that decision brought the most peace I’ve ever had in my life. Whatever happens next, I know I’m working towards that dream. Yet looking back, it’s almost like everything I’ve been doing has been working towards it without me even knowing. I’m currently earning my Bachelors of Innovation in Inclusive Early Childhood Education at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. I’ve always loved working with kids and have plenty of experience in my volunteer work and jobs throughout high school and college. I’ve volunteered as a preschool teacher at my church for years, have been working as a girls youth leader at my church youth group, and spent 6 years working in the activities department of a campground building relationships with kids and families. I taught preschool in high school and currently teach preschool at the UCCS Family Development Center. Though I’ve had a lot of experience working with kids and families in various environments, nothing comes close to my work in Ukraine.

Ukraine

In the Summers of 2016 and 2017, I volunteered as a camp counselor at a summer camp for orphans and disadvantaged kids. At the time I’m writing this letter, I leave in 3 weeks for another month in Ukraine with these incredible kids. I am honored to once again be traveling with an amazing group of people through the organization Serve Now in Colorado Springs. Each of these summer camps lasts 10 days and are attended by 80 different kids from orphanages and churches throughout the country. Many of these kids come from more difficult situations than I can imagine, the majority having been taken from their parents due to abuse, alcoholism, extreme poverty, or the loss of one or both parents. Some of these kids are from the most war-torn areas of the country and are unaccustomed to the safety and love we provide at camp. I will never forget the one cabin at camp in 2017 that had a large stick right by the front door the entire 10 days. When the counselor asked the boy who’d put it there to take it outside, he protested that he couldn’t, because it was for “when the shooting starts”. For many of these kids, this summer camp is the most love and safety they will receive all year, if not in their lifetime. These camps are full of games, bible stories, crafts, silly contests, hikes, good meals, and more hugs than I would have ever thought possible. It’s incredible to see them open up and be full of joy when they are surrounded by the loving and intentional attention of caring adults.

My time in Ukraine has been so valuable to me in working towards my teaching license. I treasure the experiences I have with these kids. The first year at camp, I found myself hiking through the Carpathian Mountains while a young boy named German tried to teach me how to count in Russian. Though I kept getting stuck on the number eight, he was patient with my learning and thrilled when I finally mastered counting, and insisted I show off my new found Russian abilities to everyone we passed. He continued to teach me and translate for me throughout the week, and we bonded over dance parties, my awful Russian, and the simple joys of camp. Though I don’t find the need to count in Russian often in my day to day life here, those memories with him are some I will treasure forever. My second year at camp, we had a little boy named Nazar who arrived with severe PTSD from witnessing the end of someone's life in the streets. His sweet heart shone throughout those 10 days, and in the midst of his fears, we saw so much growth in who he was and his comfort around adults. The only time he would be still during our bible lessons was when he stood with me while I rubbed his back, and he loved to give hugs with his little arms wrapped around your neck. These kids are just a few examples of the hundreds of kids impacted by these camps in Ukraine, and I have been so honored and humbled to be a part of it. These camps have been some of the most life-changing and impactful weeks of my life.

So now, I think it’s finally time to do what I would do if I wasn’t afraid.

Next summer, and hopefully for some time after I graduate, I hope to work with and teach kids in impoverished and rural areas of Africa. Many of these kids do not have access to quality education, or any education at all. Education not only provides a break in the cycle of poverty for children in developing countries but also puts them at a much lower risk for HIV/AIDS, increased poverty, and human trafficking. Africa has one of the highest rates of educational exclusion in the world, with over 1/5th of children between the ages of 6 and 11 out of school. In the majority of developing African countries, 3/4th of primary school teachers are untrained. As Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

To be honest, I’m not really sure what’s next. I know what I want to do, but the exact details aren’t all in place yet. I’m hoping to go to Uganda next summer for a teaching internship,  and though the details are still getting finalized, I want to begin raising the support need for both this internship and my future work. If you are able to support me financially, any small amount would be a huge blessing for me. If you feel uncomfortable donating online, feel free to contact me for other methods. Though financial support is important, encouragement and prayers for my upcomig trip to Ukraine and for figuring out the next steps in going to Africa would be incredible.

Though I know I will absolutely be taking the next step, I’m not entirely sure where that step is yet or where the set of stairs goes. Thank you to all of you who have been patient and encouraging me in the meantime :)

Thank you so much for your support and faith in me. I truly couldn’t do this without you.

Love,

Emily

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Emily Grenier posted a new update:
6 months ago

Update #7

#GivingTuesday
I love the idea of a day in the midst of the holidays dedicated to helping the lives of others. I'm so excited to be traveling to rural Uganda in 2020 for a teaching internship & missions trip. This is an amazing opportunity and one I can't participate in without the support of others. While I know it will require a lot of funding, I'm still so excited and ready for this opportunity.
The details aren't all finalized yet, but here's my website for updates :)
Hope you all have a great holiday season! ❤

Join the Conversation

Sign in with your Facebook account or

Emily Grenier posted a new update:
7 months ago

Update #5

This picture. To many, it's simply dirty feet. To me, it means the world.

This was my view in the middle of a hug, with my arms wrapped around a little orphan boy in Ukraine. As we both tried not to cry, this is what I saw.

I don't know where his feet have been. I don't know everything he's walked through, and I don't know his story, but for the past week, we've walked together. I do know his sweet heart for others, his laugh, and the way he hugs even tighter right before he lets go.

And my feet. My tired, dirty feet. Right next to his. Willing to be here, ready to walk through whatever is needed, wherever that may be, for the sake of kids like him. How I am able to make a difference, be a part of this hug, and accept my own dirty feet, I don't know. But I am overwhelmingly grateful.

I don't want to let him go, but I know that outside of my arms, he is safe in the arms of the one who created him, and that this will again be my view as I hold more kids, with their own stories and their own dirty feet.

Because in reality, we are all "the least of these" and at the same time, pricelessly precious. Even with dirty feet.

Let this be what I continue to see. Grace.

"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news." - Isaiah 52:7

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Emily Grenier posted a new update:
9 months ago

Update #4

Friends, family, and my amazing support system,

I’m home from Ukraine! After spending a month working in summer camps, I definitely miss working with these sweet kids and being surrounded by others dedicated to the same work. Though I don’t think I could truly express my gratitude, thank you so much for supporting me in every way. Both our camps were incredible and it was once again a privilege to see joy and hope begin in so many broken young lives.

Our team left for Ukraine on June 27th. After 45 hours of travel, we arrived at our camp location in Mukachevo, Ukraine. The first summer camp began the next day and was attended by 80 kids from crisis centers and orphanages throughout the country. Our second camp was attended by kids from similar situations in Irprin, Ukraine, a town with a large refugee population right outside of Kiev. Many of these kids come from very poor or disadvantaged families, refugee, or abusive situations. While we do have a lot of kids from orphanages, many of them still have parents who have lost their parental rights due to abuse, extreme poverty, alcoholism, or imprisonment. Many of these kids live broken lives, are from torn apart families, or from unsafe homes. This was the first time most of them had heard the hope of Jesus or received the love and attention from someone who truly cares about them.

This was my third trip to Ukraine and the third and fourth summer camps I have been a part of, and it was truly an honor to be a part of the Serve Now team. Just like the other years, these kids amazed me in the way they break down the language barrier in thousands of little ways. Throughout both camps, I played games, participated in dances and events, braided hair, and gave countless hugs and high fives. I taught English lessons, went on hikes and picnics, and fell in love with twice as many kids as the previous years.

During our first camp, I got to know a sweet girl named Dasha. Though she has a physical disability that affects her movement and her legs, she never let that stop her from participating and bringing joy to every situation. She loved practicing her English and translating for me, though my favorite moments with her were when she danced her heart out despite her physical disabilities. Then there was a 16-year-old boy named Igor, who’s mom is an alcoholic and he lives full time in an orphanage. He had open-heart surgery only a few days before coming to camp, but was included and safe at camp and loved every second.

At the second camp, there was a sweet 8-year-old named Anya. On the first day of camp, I asked her if she wanted to throw a frisbee and she turned and looked around as if she couldn’t believe I was talking to her. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the way her face lit up when she pointed at herself and realized I wanted her. From that moment on, that shy little girl became one of the most joyful kids in the entire camp. By the end of that week, it was hard to find her without a grin on her face, running and jumping up into the biggest hugs an 8-year-old has ever given. The power that caring attention, love, and contagious joy have to transform a little girl will never cease to amaze me.

We also had a pair of siblings from a foster home, Sasha and Diana. Diana was a shy, reserved girl who came into camp translating for her younger brother, Sasha, who has a hearing impairment and is almost completely deaf. For the first few days, Diana almost never spoke and we never saw her smile. She gradually began to warm up, and by the end of camp, her smile was one of the sweetest. She loved our team games, swimming in the pool, and getting the freedom to be a kid knowing she and her siblings were safe. Sasha was another incredible example of resilience, never letting his inability to hear slow him down. He was constantly playing games, making friends, and truly getting to enjoy being a kid in an inclusive environment.

These are just five kids. Five kids out of the 160 I had the honor of spending my summer with. I don’t think words can capture how incredible each of these kids are or convey the intense stories they have and the lives they’ve lived. I can’t explain what’s it’s like to have my heart taken by each and every one of them and watch the brokenness in their lives be reversed and be replaced with the joy and innocence of a child who knows they are loved. Though I went to “serve them”, once again I think it ended up the other way around, and I was blessed through them.

I am so excited to share that I will be continuing my missions and work with kids next summer in Uganda! Though I will miss Ukraine, I am confident that this where God is calling me too and I don’t want to miss this amazing opportunity. I’ve been accepted as a teaching intern for the Summer of 2020 with Hines Uganda Ministries. I’ll be posting updates and information on my website! Thank you so much for supporting me. This summer in Ukraine and my decision to go to Uganda next summer wouldn’t be possible without knowing I have such an incredible support system. Your support, thoughts, messages, and prayers are appreciated more than you know!

I hope you have had an amazing summer and thank you again for impacting my life and the lives of so many others!

Love, Emily

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