“This is the time that we need to push to volunteer, to help people, to build community,” says volunteer digital coach Illya Kulinych. “You might spend just 10 minutes helping someone out or talking to them, but you have no clue how much that will help someone. It may mean the world to them.”
A native of Ukraine, Illya immigrated to the U.S. when he was just 4 years old. He and his family were granted permanent residency status via the Diversity Immigrant Visa lottery program — arriving in the States with just a couple hundred dollars on hand. Today Illya studies biology at a community college. He recently got accepted into his state university and eventually hopes to obtain a master of science in anesthesia.
The opportunities provided by life in the U.S. have given Illya a profound sense of gratitude and a desire to give back. One might expect a young college student to spend his free time binge-watching television or scrolling social media. Illya, though, would find this unfulfilling. He seeks to make the most of life and create memorable experiences for himself. “I want to have a positive net impact on the people around me,” reflects Illya. “And what better way to do that than by volunteering, being selfless, and shining positivity?”
Back in Ukraine, technology is often unusable or unaffordable. When he visited his family four years ago, Illya brought along an iPad to give to his grandmother. Ever since, he has provided her with tech support from afar. This experience made Illya the perfect fit for our volunteer digital coaching program. Since connecting with CTN nearly a year ago, he has worked with multiple learners on their digital skills. “There are many eureka moments. When I’ve taught a learner something previously and they’re able to do it again at our next session, it just fills me with so much satisfaction. Not only can they learn a lot from me, but I can learn from them. They’re full of wisdom and experience. I’m really happy to be able to experience that and be there with them.”
Fluent in Russian, Illya is excited to start working with our new cohort of Russian-speaking learners. He hopes that others can follow his example and use their unique skills to strengthen our communities. “It’s truly great that I’m able to use my language,” he says. “With the senior learners, you have to get to a point where you’re talking as friends rather than strangers. The best way to do this is knowing their language and culture.”
CTN is lucky to have such a passionate, dedicated volunteer on our team — and we are always looking for more! For more information, check out our volunteer page.