Young boys and girls have gathered at the premises of the National Police of Ukraine. The training of Eurovision 2017 volunteers starts today. The coaches are hanging posters on the walls. Some posters depict smiling lips, some read "We love our volunteers," "Keep calm and always smile" and so on. The coaches are handing out leaflets, pens and eco bags featuring contest symbols to volunteers. All the people are a little bit fidgety and confused, but everyone, who enters the room, is welcomed with a smile. Smile is perhaps the main point of today’s training session.
"Do you know the myth about Ukraine? They say that we are really reserved, do not smile, the guests do not know whether we are okay or not,” starts Deputy Director for Projects of the British Council Ukraine Natalia Vasyliuk and then adds: “When people get to know us closer, they find out we are very hospitable people."
Smile is a very serious thing. Volunteers should have a smile on their faces in every situation.
"The selection of volunteers was very tough," Mrs. Vasyliuk assures, noting she is happy with the fact that Ukrainian youth are improving their knowledge of English. There are volunteers who speak even several languages, which is certainly a plus.
"The coaches are great and enthusiastic, and the volunteers are unique," Mrs. Vasyliuk says, adding this is an opinion of her colleague from the UK.
The opening ceremony of the training session is in English. The volunteers were asked whether they need translation, and they refused it.
"Are you ready for the Eurovision 2017?" coach from India Mandju Eterton asks. “Yes, we are!” the audience answers in chorus.
The volunteers-to-be are divided into pairs. The first task is to learn more about an interlocutor in just few minutes, speaking English only.
The patrol police officers sit behind the volunteers and also perform the tasks.
The Eurovision quiz turns out to be a more difficult challenge. The volunteers are asked how many times Ukraine has won the Eurovision. Everybody knows the right answer – Ukraine has been the winner twice. A more difficult question is what participating country has been a record-holder for wins.
This question got the audience thinking. However, the most popular Eurovision winner was called without hesitation – Swedish band ABBA. The volunteers got a notebook or a candy for each correct answer. Maria Khrapunenko, a student of Kharkiv, collected the largest number of prizes. She said that she had begun to watch Eurovision after Ruslana's victory in 2004 and read about the history of the contest before the interview.
"It was interesting, fun and lively," student from Kyiv Dmytro Teslenko said during the break. He applied for a volunteering position at Eurovision accidentally, when he saw an ad on the Internet. Dmytro was surprised that not knowledge of English but motivation to be a volunteer at Eurovision was the main criterion for selection. His desire to take part in the competition appeared after Jamala’s victory.
It turns out that Jamala also inspired student of Warsaw University Iryna Kostiukova to become a volunteer at the song contest in Kyiv.
The coaches continue to conduct the class and offer to simulate a situation that may happen during the work of volunteers. The volunteers-to-be are again divided into pairs. One volunteer is set a task to show an aggressive tourist, another student has to respond to this situation as a volunteer. Another pair of students has to simulate a situation with a good tourist. In both situations, volunteers keep calm and smile and coaches nod in approval.
The police officers listen to the volunteers and say that they know English well. Police inspector from Kyiv Tetiana Zhembotska says that the police officers also improve their English at the British Council on the eve of the Eurovision Song Contest.
The scheduled Customer Service training for volunteers has been held for 15 people, several trainings had been already conducted before. 900 people passed the selection for Eurovision. In total, there were 12,000 applications from prospective volunteers for Eurovision 2017.
In addition, volunteers from other countries will arrive in a few days. "Foreigners make up 5% of all volunteers who passed the test," says coach of the Volunteers for Europe project Oksana Nazimok. She explains that most of the volunteers have extensive volunteer experience, get English language practice at schools and so on. And this is not only about young people, because the oldest volunteer is 62 years old.
Yulia Haydina, Kyiv.
Photo: Pavlo Bahmut / Ukrinform.