The award, which is being presented by the WEA, the largest community adult education provider in the UK, will be presented to Olga Myronovska, 34, at the historical cathedral on Thursday 1 February.
Olga Myronovska settled in the North East after her life was turned upside down by the war in Ukraine. It was not just her own life that was affected. Her two young children and her mum also left their home country to seek refuge with Olga.
Olga said: “It was very challenging at first, even though I can speak English there are many cultural differences in the UK.”
Seeing news from back home left her with mixed emotions; “Things are changing every day in Ukraine. Sometimes I feel happy and I’m very thankful that I'm here. People in the UK have welcomed us, which is nice, but all this news from home makes me very sad.”
After settling her children into school and nursery, she looked for opportunities where she could use her skills to help others in similar situations. This is when she signed up for the WEA’s Community Interpreting course.
Olga described the course as “a lifeline” adding, “it was the highlight of my week. It helped me to settle and make new friends.”
The course helped Olga land a job interpreting at hospitals, GP surgeries, and schools.
She said: “The WEA has given me a chance to represent the Ukrainian community today and help Ukrainians who don't speak English. I can find them help by building this little bridge between them and the services they need.”
“The biggest need for the community is to help them at the doctors. Like when they have some symptoms when they are sick, they can't explain what's going on or what medicine they need. People feel depressed with their situation, and they need to explain to the doctor how they feel, which is very hard if they can’t speak English.”
WEA’s North East team recognised not only Olga’s passion on the course, but also her desire to put her learning to practice and help those living in her local community. This is why she landed the prestigious award.
Simon Parkinson, Chief executive of the WEA, said: “I am so proud of Olga, whose passion for learning and helping others has shone through her time with us and so it is only right she wins this award.
“It is not easy to settle in a new country, especially in the circumstances of war, but Olga has created bonds in her community and paid it forward.
“Courses like our Community Interpreting courses are vital as they do not require previous qualifications, which makes them a great entry back into education without it feeling like school.
“This is what makes the WEA different from most providers, but that is at risk should the newly formed North East Combined Authority stand by their decision to defund our work in the area by £1.3m - leaving over 1,600 learners without any options and putting over 70 jobs at risk.
“The authority’s decision will again prioritise 16–19-year-old College provision over community-based adult learning. Currently 8% of working aged adults in the North East were failed by school and left education without qualifications. These learners need to build their confidence and essential life skills first and we are the experts to help them.
“Let's be clear, this is an unnecessary decision for NEMCA to take. We have asked Dr Henry Kippen (Interim CEO for NEMCA) for the rationale and process around this decision and he has to date declined to provide any. We will be issuing FOI requests and exploring other legal and statutory routes to formally challenge this decision. We call on NEMCA to urgently re-consider its decision.
“While we continue to fight to bring back our funding, we hope seeing Olga’s story reminds local decision makers why the work the WEA does is so vital.”