Shaper visits Kharkiv hub projects

I was about 10 years old when I was put to bed, a couple of weeks after my fourth hip surgery. As I naturally could not use the winding staircase I slept in a bed in the living room, being surrounded by people from the moment the very first family member woke up and until the last one went to bed. This particular night I could not fall asleep. It was not because of pain –I didn’t have any– but because I had questions. Why was it me that needed to have that hip surgery? And stay in bed for many weeks, then working on my recovery? In other words, I felt pity for myself. I called for my mom and said I could not sleep. She drove my bed closer, away from the dark corner behind cupboards, for me to join her watching television.


Right when I arrived a commercial break started. Severely handicapped children were crawling over concrete floors in an orphanage home, all with obvious defects to their bodies. This commercial was by the Liliane Foundation, an organisation that helps about 85.000 handicapped children per year to get access to health care, education and work. “Please bring me back to my bed,” I told my mom immediately after having seen this commercial. “What I have isn’t that bad at all.” I never asked myself those questions again. Shortly after I fell asleep.


My most recent trip brought me back to face this memory. Together with fellow Shapers Kateryna Roshchyna, Jane Kas’kova and Giovanni Porcellana we visited an orphanage in the vicinity of Kharkiv, home of the Kharkiv Hub. This orphanage houses children like the ones I saw in the commercial: all were handicapped. Luckily these children are cared for very well. I shared my own story with them, about how I faced many severe medical issues, from hip surgeries to heart and brain surgery. I told them my adage: “Change what you cannot accept, accept what you cannot change. It’s only YOU who can make a choice to accept something, nobody else can.” Some children in that orphanage clearly fight for developing further and managed to developed beyond expectation too. I walked away deeply, deeply impressed.


Yet the core reason for visiting Kharkiv was for contributing to EdCamp Ukraine, which is organized by our fellow Shaper Oleksandr Elkin. Giovanni and I had the amazing opportunity of sharing our perspectives on technology, and how this could be incorporated in Ukrainian education – from DNA printing, drones and VR to neurotechnology: so much is going on. The response of the teachers was great. Many were surprised by how advanced these technologies already are!


Right when EdCamp started we felt an extremely warm welcome. So many people greeted us kindly. Sometimes in the Ukrainian or Russian language, so our wonderful translators proved necessary early on. After all, my Ukrainian or Russian skills (both are spoken in Ukraine) were virtually non-existent. We were often asked questions by the teachers. Sometimes a short and easy ones, but we’ve also had deep exchanges of thought. One of the teachers was so excited to show us his work that he went home to pick up some of his recent plans. I am very impressed by all the work that’s done in Ukrainian education system, especially considering the limited resources available in a country badly hit by corruption and as a consequence poverty for many people as well.


About 500 beautiful people attended EdCamp all together. Judged by the countless pictures that were taken, EdCamp lasted far longer than the two days it actually took place. And I felt treated like celebrities as many teachers wanted to take a picture with the handsome Italian guy and me!


We were asked to write down a promise at the end of EdCamp answering the question: “How we would take what we’ve learned forward?” My promise is that I will share my experience with the people: how nicely we were treated by the beautiful people of Ukraine, how hospitable we were hosted by Kateryna’s family for a great dinner, and how intensely beautiful I’ve experienced the Ukraine. And I will be delighted to contribute to the next EdCamp!


Yori Kamphuis

Global Shaper from the Amsterdam Hub