May 22, 2015

The Dynamic Duo from Ukraine

Viktoriya Luchka and Viktoriia Shvydchenko are a dynamic duo. The pair became the first Ukrainian Youth Delegates to the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly when they were appointed by the Ukrainian government in October 2014. Using skills gained on their Global UGRAD exchanges, they helped initiate the Ukrainian Youth Delegates program. Luchka and Shvydchenko now proudly represent the interests of Ukrainian youth as a part of the official Ukrainian delegation to United Nations.
Luchka and Shvydchenko share more than a first name. They are both 2012-2013 Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (UGRAD) alumnae, passionate about human rights, their home country, Ukraine, and the exchange alumni community. Through UGRAD, Luchka attended Utica College in New York, while almost 3,000 miles away, Shvydchenko studied at Lewis & Clark College in Oregon. In New York, Luchka was actively involved in the community, serving as a president of her college’s Amnesty International Group. Meanwhile, in Oregon, Shvydchenko was also building skills for her future position with the United Nations. With her college, she participated in Model United Nations’ conferences and held an internship at the World Affairs Council of Oregon. 
Without the Global UGRAD exchange experience, Luchka believes that she and Shvydchenko may not have initiated the Ukrainian Youth Delegation program. Of her exchange, she said, "The year I spent studying International Law and Human Rights at Utica College has not only enriched my theoretical knowledge but also motivated me to do practical work in this sphere and beyond. Being at the United Nations as a Ukrainian Youth Delegate, looking back at efforts Shvydchenko and I put in to establish this program, makes it absolutely clear to me that it would be impossible to do the same thing if not for the experience, inspiration, motivation, new skills and personal qualities I received during my UGRAD year.” 
Shvydchenko agrees with Luchka: “If you ask me whether UGRAD had an impact on my life and the  Ukrainian Youth Delegate to UN initiative that Luchka and I launched,” she said, “I will answer, yes, absolutely.” As a student, Shvydchenko studied international relations, but did not consider a career path with the United Nations. “I believe it all started during my UGRAD year when I was actively involved in Model UN club of my college. Not only has UGRAD taught me to dream and act. It taught me to do that with the people who share the same values and a common vision."
With courage and a shared vision, Luchka and Shvydchenko addressed the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly, which focuses on a range of issues in humanitarian affairs. Luchka spoke on behalf of the Crimean Tartar population in Crimea, while Shvydchenko’s remarks covered the importance of ensuring that children’s rights remain a top priority. As active members of the Ukrainian alumni community, Luchka and Shvydchenko have hosted numerous presentations on their UN experiences for alumni in Kyiv. Additionally, since 2012, Shvydchenko has been an active member of the U.S. Embassy Youth Council, which serves as consultative advisory body to the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. 
This spring, Luchka held an internship at the Agency of Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights in the Western Region. This experience inspired her to help found the NGO Lviv Academy for Human Rights of Don Bosco, where she currently serves as a President. Shvydchenko is currently a World Academy of Arts and Science Junior Fellow and the Head of External Relations of the Lviv Academy for Human Rights of Don Bosco.
Each month, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) Alumni Affairs Division, which supports alumni as they build on their exchange experiences, recognizes an outstanding alumnus or alumna. This month, we have the honor of recognizing two alumnae. Viktoriya Luchka and Viktoriia Shvydchenko will be recognized throughout May on the International Exchange Alumni website, ECA’s official website which serves more than one million Department-sponsored exchange alumni worldwide.