What it means to give back

By Roman Grod

No matter what part of the country you were raised in, and regardless of church or organizational affiliation, a common question is posed to all Ukrainian-Canadians, “How can we give back to Ukraine?”  

Part of SUSK’s mandate is not only to continue to support and foster cultural identity for students in Canada, but educate them on what it means to be Ukrainian and the opportunities we have to engage and make Ukraine a better and stronger country. There are many ways to define what it means to support Ukraine, and many ways in which you can support Ukraine. To fully understanding giving back and giving back to Ukraine I believe it is important to break it down into three questions; 

  1. What does it mean to give back?
  2. How can you, as a student, support Ukraine? 
  3. How does supporting Ukraine and the community benefit you? 

 It is difficult to define supporting Ukraine, as people’s relationships with Ukraine vary vastly even within SUSK itself. Within our membership alone we have individuals who are 4th generation Ukrainian Canadians all the way to new immigrants. To everyone, giving back has a different meaning and to me, the simplest definition is using the skills, knowledge, expertise and anything else you have to offer for the benefit of another group or individual. 

Let me explain; over the last four years in SUSK, I have held three different positions—all of which allowed me to give back to SUSK and support the broader Ukrainian student community using my distinct skills, knowledge and expertise. As alumni director in 2017-2018, I alongside a few others successfully launched the Endowment Campaign that would help financially secure SUSK’s future for years to come. Here I was able to use my connections and skills such as my ability to present and educate for the benefit of the SUSK endowment. Vice-president finance presented its own opportunities as I was able to use my knowledge of government filings and reporting as well as accounting methods to put SUSK in a good position going forward considering we were officially a registered not-for-profit organization. The position of president is one that truly is a test of all your skills and really allows you to give everything you have to offer for the benefit of SUSK. 

“How can we, as students, support Ukraine?” This is a question that I receive quite often and I believe it’s a perfect opportunity to address it. There is no right or wrong answer…It’s whatever you are passionate about. But regardless, here are some of my suggestions: Get involved with various organizations. Whether it’s through the Ukrainian Youth Association (CYM) with their English language camps in Ukraine, Help Us Help the Children (HUHTC) with their camps for orphans in Ukraine, or Dzherelo with their rehabilitation and education programs in Ukraine. The point is anyone and everyone can give back to Ukraine no matter their skill set. There are so many organizations within our community that can and will benefit from your interest and support.  

It’s never a good approach to give back because it benefits you. However, regardless of that there are personal benefits when giving back. 

Giving back will broaden your network on a global level. In my position as SUSK president, I have been able to meet Ukrainians around the world in various organizations that SUSK can now leverage to help educate the next generation. For this year’s planned congress, (that was cancelled because of COVID-19) we had the Ambassadors of Ukraine to Canada and of Canada to Ukraine lined up as guest speakers to educate us on Canada-Ukraine relations. 

An experience like no other. As alumni director, VP finance, and now president, I have taken on roles and responsibilities that in a normal corporate environment would take me years to achieve. The experience and often the responsibilities you are given in volunteer organizations exceed any responsibilities you are given in the corporate world, especially as a student with little experience going into the role. 

And finally, a sense of satisfaction. A lot of people can make a difference, some do it on a global level and others on a regional. Nelson Mandela said it best, “We can change the world and make it a better place, it is in your hands to make a difference.”