December 16, 2005: Headlines: COS - Ukraine: Litchfield Enquirer: Tom and Judith Hogan served as teachers in the Ukraine with Peace Corps

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ukraine: Peace Corps Ukraine : The Peace Corps in the Ukraine: December 16, 2005: Headlines: COS - Ukraine: Litchfield Enquirer: Tom and Judith Hogan served as teachers in the Ukraine with Peace Corps

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Tom and Judith Hogan served as teachers in the Ukraine with Peace Corps

Tom and Judith Hogan served as teachers in the Ukraine with Peace Corps

Neither had served in the Peace Corps, or any similar organization, before. They were comfortable with their lives, having raised their children and enjoying their respective careers-Mr. Hogan was an attorney and Mrs. Hogan was a teaching nurse at Litchfield High School. Yet, they chose to put that life on hold for two years in order to represent the United States in the Peace Corps.

Tom and Judith Hogan served as teachers in the Ukraine with Peace Corps

Hogans served as teachers in the Ukraine with Peace Corps

By: Dawn Caminiti


In the living room of Tom and Judith Hogan's Litchfield home, a television screen is illuminated with the faces and scenery of another world. Photographs of a regal church with gold domes, bright blue skies over steep mountains, dirt roads lined with gated houses and proud Ukrainian faces dance across the screen as soft music plays in the background. The presentation tells the story of the couple's two years as Peace Corps volunteers in Ukraine, where they served as teachers and helped young students learn to think and, in turn, learned a few lessons of their own.

They prepared the presentation to share with the organizations and schools that supported their efforts in the Ukraine. It was a way to thank everyone who had sent packages and books.

The Hogans returned home this past summer, closing the final chapter in their story that began years earlier-in September 2001. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the couple was inspired to go out and do more for the world, and to work for peace.

"We talked about it for a year, looked at other organizations. Then about Christmastime we decided we could either keep talking about it or really explore our options," Mr. Hogan said.

Neither had served in the Peace Corps, or any similar organization, before. They were comfortable with their lives, having raised their children and enjoying their respective careers-Mr. Hogan was an attorney and Mrs. Hogan was a teaching nurse at Litchfield High School. Yet, they chose to put that life on hold for two years in order to represent the United States in the Peace Corps.

The application process took about six months. The couple left in September 2003 for Chicago, where they met the other 93 volunteers who would be training with them. The large group traveled together to Ukraine.

At the Ukraine Peace Corps headquarters in Kiev, the volunteers went through a three-month training regimen, learning the language and preparing for their roles as English teachers. On Dec. 13, they were sworn in as Peace Corps volunteers. Their "class" chose Mr. Hogan to be a speaker during the ceremony.

Then it was time to put to use all that they had learned. The volunteers were sent out to villages and towns across the country. The Hogans were assigned to Houst, a small town near the border of Hungary. They traveled by train for 16 hours, covering 500 miles before arriving in what would be their hometown for the next year and a half.

Living there was an adjustment. As volunteers, they were not allowed a car, which was not unusual in the town were most people traveled by bicycle. Water was rationed, electricity would go out without warning. Meat was an extravagance, as most families slaughtered one pig for the year, and bread was a staple food. It cost money to have garbage taken away, so most of the streets and rivers were lined with trash. They have no complaints about their time in Ukraine, merely observations of the difference between there and here and plenty of stories about a town where they were known affectionately as "the Americans."

They were each assigned to their schools. Mr. Hogan taught English as a Foreign Language, U.S. History and American Culture to students in grades seven through 11, essentially the high school students. Mrs. Hogan was assigned to the University of Ukraine, teaching English and literature classes.

While the three-month training session was meant to prepare them for their new roles as teachers, the couple still had much to learn about the country's education system. To start, most learning was done through memorization. Students did not question teachers or even volunteer answers-an attitude leftover from the country's time under communist rule.

"They learned not to call attention to themselves because they thought they could get in trouble. Even though it is a democratic country, they still haven't rekindled that spirit of expecting things to be a certain way," Mrs. Hogan said.

Classes, for some, were also a means to an end. It was not uncommon at the university where Mrs. Hogan taught for students to pay for grades or talk during tests to share answers. The training alluded to all of this, but it was still a shock. Mrs. Hogan never gave a grade that was not earned, and gave her students individual oral exams to keep them from cheating.

"I was trying to get them to think as individuals, not as a herd," she said.

Their students came around, and both volunteers took their roles as teachers as an opportunity to teach the students more than just English lessons. During the election in 2004, they talked to their students about fairness, free press and the importance of voting, careful not to get into the politics of the country.

"On paper the Peace Corps says you're all English teachers, but I imagine we all did something differently, instead of teaching from the book," Mr. Hogan said.

As time went on a mutual respect developed between students and teachers. The students recognized that their teachers were there to help them to think on their own. Yet, for Mr. and Mrs. Hogan a bigger conflict was how far they should push their students. The harsh reality in the Ukraine is that there are very few jobs available, even after students complete studies at the university.

"You have your bad days, where you realize that their futures aren't that rosy, and do you fill them with hope when those hopes may be dashed?" Mr. Hogan said. "But maybe part of our job is giving them some kind of direction, some kind of hope."

"That they can make a difference," Mrs. Hogan elaborated. "If they try hard enough."

©The Litchfield Enquirer 2005

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Story Source: Litchfield Enquirer

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