“We help children get an education in a safe environment”
An interview with a volunteer of the Angels of Freedom project
March 29, 2023
Assel is an employee of a foreign company in the field of production and sale of energy, a financier by education, and a volunteer. We talked to her and found out why we want to feel our involvement in the restoration of Ukraine, whether the “little man” can influence global processes, and how the Angels of Freedom was supported by the US Embassy in Kazakhstan.
For me, Angels of Freedom is a place of change. It is a place where hearts unite and make the world a place of warmth and kindness. We make this world a better place through this project.
— How did your participation in the Angels of Freedom project begin?
— I joined the project last year, in June when the first tolokas were organized. I saw the announcement on Instagram, I realized that I want to somehow physically help the Ukrainians, not only financially just transfering money. I wanted to contribute to the common cause of helping Ukraine, so I was looking for such an opportunity — I looked at volunteer programs on the website of the Ukrainian Embassy, I wanted to join one of the projects that they had and even filled out a form, but somehow it didn't work out. And when I saw an announcement that toloka would be held, I decided to participate.
— What were your first impressions of the first toloka?
— I liked the atmosphere itself. I went there not knowing what to expect because it was the first time for me. At the toloka, I learned what a “motanka” is — these are Ukrainian dolls that are made by hand. I really liked creating angels with the mission of helping the children of Ukraine, I was so fascinated by this activity that in the summer I went to tolokas almost every week. I was also attracted by the mission of the project — to make the world kinder, to restore schools, and to help children gain access to normal learning conditions. As far as I know, in Ukraine, according to the new rules, all schools must be equipped with bomb shelters. And that's exactly what the Angels of Freedom project does. That is, we help children to receive education in a safe environment. This mission — to help children learn, to spread knowledge — seemed to me very noble, and it is close to my values. Therefore, I decided to support the project and continue to participate in it.
The goal of the project is to involve not only residents in the restoration of Ukrainian schools but also foreign citizens who live in Kazakhstan and support Ukraine.
— Have you seen the schools you help?
— Yes. When I saw photographs of destroyed schools from the city of Chernihiv on the toloka, it touched me to the point of pain. I try not to read the news now. At first, I read, and checked, and all this information, of course, did not give me optimism, so I decided to limit the news flow. But when I saw these schools, it was very painful and insulting. Especially for the kids, because they don't deserve it.
— Why is it important for you to be involved in the restoration of Ukraine?
— I have a personal connection with Ukraine — I was born in Odessa. My parents lived there for five years and studied. But, unfortunately, I didn't have an opportunity to go there. I think in the future it will appear when this nightmare is over. And I even have a medal “Born in Ukraine”, which I still keep. Why is it important to help? First, the feeling of the injustice of what is happening now. And then, as my teacher says, we must start with ourselves. In order to reduce the level of violence in the world, you must first get rid of the violence in your heart. The little violence that we have in our hearts or minds also brings great harm. And if we start to track the notes of aggression inside ourselves, even rude speech or some kind of unkind reaction to those little things that annoy us in everyday life, if we start to reduce this aggression, this will help the outside world become kinder and better. And toloka for me is a sort of meditation (laughs). The creation of these dolls introduces such a state of absolute calmness. And in general, the atmosphere at tolokas is very kind, conducive to communication and at the same time to immersion in oneself.
— Were there any stories or situations that impressed you the most during your participation in the project?
— Stories? Well, these are probably the people I met at the tolokas. First, Iryna and Yevgeniy. They, as organizers, have participated and are participating in every toloka up to now. Their involvement and enthusiasm are very inspiring. Their indifference really affects me and gives me the strength to continue this work. And also other volunteers that I encountered. Everyone has their own interesting story and their own reasons why they come to the project. For example, Aelita is a very bright and extraordinary person, Yelena is a girl with a big and kind heart, Natalya — I participated with her at the fair and I can say that she is a unique person.
— What are you doing now in the Angels of Freedom? I know that you presented the project at the US Embassy in Kazakhstan.
— In fact, it happened quite by an accident — my participation in the presentation for diplomats of the US Embassy. The fact is that Iryna was leaving on personal business, she was not in the city. And since I speak English, I was asked to present the project. We did not initially expect that the US Ambassador himself would participate there. We thought that this would be an event only for the wives of diplomats and embassy staff. But in the end, the first persons of the embassy were there, which was very nice.
— How did everything go?
— In my opinion, the presentation was successful. We managed to convey the goal and mission of the project — why we are doing this. I think they were inspired by our mission — there were a lot of donations. And the very fact that they decided to host a toloka session means a lot to us. The atmosphere was very warm and friendly.
— This is certainly a great success for the project. Are there any other events like this planned?
— Angels of Freedom plans to further develop this area, namely to raise awareness of the project among other embassies. It is possible to hold tolokas in embassies or involve them in other ways. Now we are working on it. That is, the task is to involve not only local residents in the restoration of Ukrainian schools but also foreign citizens who live in Kazakhstan and support Ukraine.
— Were you worried during the presentation?
— Yes very. And although I had been preparing for several days, redoing the presentation, some small things, as usual, were left for the last day. And on the last night I repeated my text, and… it's good that the presentation went very quickly (smiles).
— What questions were asked during the presentation?
— There were no questions. Because this event was organized in order to create dolls, the “angels of freedom” themselves. The presentation was very short, literally 10–15 minutes because the ambassador also had limited time. And we wanted to make it as brief and concise as possible. But they know everything that is happening in Ukraine, they are aware of the agenda, and, of course, they support it.
— Many people think that their contribution, the contribution of a little ordinary person, is a drop in the ocean that cannot affect the situation. What would you say to people with this attitude?
— I think that a lot depends on each of us. If each of us eliminates aggression in our hearts and minds, it will help a lot. If there is such a critical mass of people who understand this and realize that everything starts with him, this will be a path of great change. These changes take place within us. If we change, the world around us will also change. It's all a reflection of us. We created it and we can stop it. We must not think that our contribution is a drop in the ocean and underestimate its importance. In fact, every person can make the world kinder, better, and happier, even simply by showing mercy and compassion.
— Do new people come to the project?
— Every time new participants come to the tolokas. There are more and more of us. And now, in addition to Astana, we already have volunteers in Pavlodar, Karaganda, and Almaty. All thanks to the fact that information is spreading, and people want to help. Geography is growing. Perhaps Western Kazakhstan will also join the tolokas. And not only Kazakhstan. There is interest from other countries as well. Our angels were even sent to Belgium.
I was attracted by the mission of the project — to make the world kinder, to restore schools, and to help children gain access to normal learning conditions.
— Continue the phrase “Angels of Freedom are ...”
— For me, the Angels of Freedom is a place of change. It is a place where hearts unite and make the world a place of warmth and kindness. We make this world a better place thanks to this project.
— If you had the opportunity to appeal to the people of Kazakhstan and invite them to the Angels of Freedom project, how would you formulate this appeal? How would you explain the importance of volunteering?
— I know that our people are very merciful, and compassionate. And always supported people who were suffering. Everyone, of course, will decide for himself or herself what kind of volunteer projects he wants to support. But I believe that if you join the Angels of Freedom project, you will contribute a lot to the changes that will take place in the future.