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“Me-the Other,” winner of Uniservitate Award uses theater to teach inclusivity


Yulia Vintoniv is a lecturer at Ukrainian Catholic University. She created the theater project “Me – the Other.” It is dedicated to bringing students and people with disabilities together.

The project won the first edition of the Uniservitate award, which is given to the best service-learning programs at educational Catholic institutions. Vintoniv always knew she wanted to help others but at first she wasn't sure how.

YULIA VINTONIV
Ukrainian Catholic University

I don't have any idea because my course is really specific because I talk about theological problems and suffering in war. All kind of problems, so I didn't have any idea.
So after that I decided that I wanted to not only do theater but inclusive theater with students.

In developing the program, Vintoniv reached out to her colleagues at the Emmaus Center— a university department that supports people with disabilities. Previously, the center had established the theater troop “Love and Tears” for people with disabilities.

YULIA VINTONIV
Ukrainian Catholic University

So this theater, “Love and Tears,” existed at Ukraine Catholic University for more than 20 years but they were a really small community. They had only six people with mental disabilites, different mental disabilities, and they just made small performances with two or three assistants who help them.
They never made performances with students – with a group of 20 students – so there was a lot of risk
.

Olha Matiyychuk, Vintoniv's department head, also participates in the group's projects. She calls her coworkers with disabilities friends. Through them, she and the students have learned a lot about interpersonal relationships.

OLHA MATIYYCHUK
Ukrainian Catholic University

From the very beginning they were a little bit afraid, they didn't know how to communicate with people with disabilities but the ice was broken. People with disabilities can really teach us to be open.

Sofia, a student in the program, agrees. She doesn't think of “Me - the Other” as a service but as spending time with friends. For Sofiia, the program has helped her deal with anxiety in public speaking.

SOFIIA MYNTIUK
Ukrainian Catholic University

I just read my notes because we had this journal of reflections during this project and after each part of the course we had to write down our thoughts and feelings. And I just looked through them and I noticed at the beginning I was feeling really uncomfortable at times.
I just kind of understood you had to be yourself and to be genuine. Just stay true to yourself, nobody knows what to do ever.

At the third Universitate Global Symposium, the first to present the award, Sofiia was able to demonstrate what she learned in “Me - the Other.” She put her new skills into practice and explained the mission of the University's award-winning program.“Me - the Other” has produced a new style of learning and seeks to make the world a better place.

RM

TR: MG