This is our fifth edition of our ISLP alumni newsletter.                 VISIT OUR SITE  |  DONATE


"When life leaves us blind
 Love keeps us kind"

- Linkin Park "The Messenger"

Dear Friends,

How have you been these days?  I guess it's been hectic for some of you. What do you feel about all the things that have been happening lately (terrorist attacks, war, international tension...)?  Does it affect you?

I'm not trying to be negative nor pessimistic. Sometimes I just feel like people are trying to turn away from "all the bad things" and concentrate "only on the positive moments."  I'm not saying it's wrong but is it really helpful?  Isn't it better to accept the fact that you might be upset, angry, disappointed, or even mean?

I think it's very important to be able to accept your "dark side" because it might tell you something about yourself.  And maybe in this darkness you will find this light that will help you to carry on, and you discover something new about yourself?

For us, as servant leaders, I think this skill is crucial.  What do you think?

                                                                                                  Dasha Tailakova, Editor

P.S. We would love to hear from you!  What is going on in your life now - job, family, how servant leadership is playing a role in your work and life, we would love to share this in an upcoming newsletter.  Please send this to me at e-mail:

With Jeff and Coralee in Portland.

With Marshall in Portland.

The importance of community

By Svitlana Rebenok (ISLP Group #2 at KNLU in Ukraine - which started in 2008)

Hi, I am Svitlana Rebenok. I was born in a small Ukrainian town Uman. At the age of 17 I moved to Kiev, Ukraine to study at Kiev National Linguistic University. This is where I met Marshall Christensen and learned about International Servant Leadership Program. After receiving my university degree I have worked in a couple of international companies in Kiev as an account manager and senior relationship manager. At the end of last year I moved to New York. Life is full of surprises :)

When I joined Co-Serve’s International Servant Leadership Program (ISLP) group in 2008, I didn't realize back then how this program would influence my life, especially my world view as well as my personal beliefs in the future.

ISLP is all about people. I understand it much better now, approximately 7 years after I started the first phase of the ISLP and 6 years since the Servant Leadership Academy in Portland. One valuable principle I learned, and one which has never left me since that training time is the importance of community. If someone had told me back then that my host family (Jeff and Coralee Stevens) would not just be a temporary host family for 3 weeks, but lifetime friends, if someone had told me that I would come back to Portland again to see these people who have become a very important part of my life, I would not have believed them. My nature as a critical thinker, which was formed by the post-Soviet attitude, would have rioted and many questions would have appeared in my head - this is all impossible! Why would people who have never seen me in my entire life want to be friends with me? Why would they stay in contact with me over all these years? And why would they invite me to their home for a return visit 6 years later?

As many of you former students (like me) already understand, all members of the Co-Serve team-- participants in the program, all of the many volunteers, the whole community is united by very simple, but crucial, values—common core values of the Servant Leader. It took me a while to realize that these values are not just words. They are basically quite simple: respect; compassion for others; valuing others as yourself; not only taking, but giving; helping others to grow and, most importantly, being able to feel happy for the success of another person. The Leadership Academy showed me that all these principles and many more, shall be and can be demonstrated in all aspects of everyday life. This is where my role model was my host family, Jeff and Coralee Stevens, and, of course, Marshall Christensen, himself. They showed me that these basic core values can also be applied in business, NGOs as well as government organizations, which does not necessarily mean giving everything away and sacrificing everything for the sake of others, but giving as much as you can to others in need, with the common result of receiving 10 times more in response. Broetje Orchards in Central Washington, USA demonstrated it to the fullest. The owners of the apple orchards have dramatically changed the lives of hundreds of their employees. What this family did was to build a special community, one based on trusting and valuing their employees. This Servant Leadership approach led to the construction of houses for their employees as well as the development of a small town close to the orchards for the workers where they could shop, receive medical care, school their children, etc. I have rarely seen this attitude in my home country or other countries where I have traveled, but since I (we) have become members of the Co-Serve community, I have become an ambassador-we all have become ambassadors of these ideas, and I feel compelled to share Servant Leadership principles with as many people as possible, in addition to shaping my own live to practice servant leadership principles everyday in the same way. This is how we can make a difference In the world where we live.

To me the Servant Leadership Program (ISLP) is something way beyond a traditional educational process. In the ensuing years after completing the ISL Program I have realized that with giving you don't become poorer, you become richer. I am still in search of who I want to become and what I want to achieve in life, but I know which means I will use to reach my goals. And in that process I know that I have the loving support of my servant leadership community, my second family. As I look back on my life since my Servant Leadership training experience in 2008-2009, I know that I have become a better person. Thank you to each one on the Co-Serve team who has supported me and helped to make me the person I am today—I will never forget you!.

Axinya (second from left) with
other ISLP graduates at KAFU.

Axinya in Novosibirsk.

Making hard choices

By Axinya Matushchenko (ISLP Group #7 at KAFU - which started in 2010)

When I graduated from the International Servant Leadership Academy, the world was full of opportunities – at least it seemed like that to me.  I believed that I could find myself and my place in this world.  My faith wasn't in vain.  When I decided to start working, I met my mentor: Elvira Adalatovna Allakhverdiyeva.  We understood each other without words, we were both leaders and were open to new possibilities. I am very grateful to this amazing and bright person, for her business acumen and her faith in me.  She gave me knowledge and I helped her in developing the "Leaders' Club" in Ust-Kamenogorsk.  This club (Клуб Лидеров in Russian) is an organization that helps to develop values and leadership qualities in children through fun activities (like birthday parties) and different workshops and classes.  You can see more about them at:

Meanwhile, I continued my studies as a Master's student at KAFU. When I graduated with my Master's degree, I felt the urge to move on and to improve my life.  Furthermore, my boyfriend moved to Russia from Ust-Kamenogorsk and this gave me even more motivation to change my life.  So, in the summer of 2015, as I looked at my life, I realized that I wanted something more.  All of the people dearest to me were living in different cities and countries far away from me.  I didn't want to live far away from my boyfriend.  I also felt sad that I did not keep in touch with my American host family.

By the end of the summer 2015, I met with my good friend Dasha (ISLP 7) who came from France to visit her friends and family in Ust-Kamenogorsk.  We had a good time and reminisced a little.

In September, 2015 I was able to start an internship at a company in Novosibirsk.  It seemed like this company would be a good place for me.  I could use my English language skills, work with clients, and develop myself within the company.  I even had a nice office.  The internship was a chance to prove myself so that I could get hired full time.  I was trying very hard every day to understand and memorize all the new information, and by the end of the day I was exhausted.  I woke up at 6 am and went to bed at midnight. But it didn't stop me.  I like to work, I'm a workaholic.

But, after one month of my internship, I started to doubt my decision to work at this company.  I realized the most important value for me is people, and I sensed that this company had different values.  My mom and my boyfriend didn't understand my fears.  They thought that I just didn't want to work.  I was trying to explain my fears even though I didn't understand them clearly myself.  I got sick for three days – I couldn't eat nor sleep.  Still, I was able to pass the exam and was employed in the company.  After my very first day of work, I realized what was wrong with the company – leadership!  (Or the lack of such!).  I saw how damaging it was for all of the employees, including me.  I made the hard decision that I didn't want to work like that - and I quit.  I realized that, as a servant leader, I just can't work in a place with different values than my own.

Novosibirsk is very different from my hometown Ust-Kamenogorsk (it takes one hour and a half to go from one part of it to another). In Ust there are pharmacies everywhere, in Novosibirsk there are coffee shops everywhere. Probably people here need more energy.

Now I am taking some time to rest and enjoy my life. I live in the suburbs of Novosibirsk with my boyfriend and his parents. We have a dog, his name's Venik. All my life I wanted to have a dog of gray coloring and average size, and now I have it!  There's a forest nearby our place. It's an amazing feeling when you walk with your dog up to a lake, all the worries disappear. Me and my boyfriend want to buy bikes and have long rides.  The house I now live in reminds me of my American host families. Unfortunately I don't keep in touch with them anymore as I've lost the password from my Facebook account. Apart from dealing with my documents (I've applied for Russian citizenship) I do crocheting. The quiet time I had let me do things like crocheting which I wanted to do long time ago but had no time for.

Marshall with Nadya Zherebyatova from

Dan with Yuliya Yeremeyeva from

Marshall with Alexey Kravchenko from

Maria, Valentina, Sasha and Vlad
will be helping to lead the Kiev Academy.

Olga Zeleniuk will also be involved
during the Kiev Academy.

Co-Serve News

By Marshall Christensen and Dan Ballast

During our visit to the Kazakh-American Free University (KAFU) in March and April, we greatly enjoyed meeting with many of our KAFU ISLP alumni, including some of you in our very first ISLP groups.  As part of our meetings with you, we wanted to assess if our ISLP program is having any long-term impact.

The numerous stories you shared with us were nothing short of inspiring.  We learned that the ideas and principles of servant leadership continue to make a big difference in your lives.  We also learned that this has not been easy.  Almost everyone shared about the challenges of living as a servant leader and staying true to their core values.  We heard many stories about hard decisions you have made to stop working for companies that have values that are not compatible with your own (just like Axinya shares in this newsletter).  We also heard many stories about your efforts to make a positive difference in the communities you are a part of - either in your classrooms or with the people you are working with.  We are proud of you! You inspire us to continue the work we are doing.

We also learned that, perhaps more than ever, we need to continue to support each other and share our stories with each other.  That is why this newsletter is so important.  We want to continue to share your stories through this newsletters, and we will keep reminding you to write down your stories and send them to us!  We are grateful for the help of people like Dasha, who keep this newsletter going.  If any of you would like to help Dasha and get involved - just let us or Dasha know.

Our "big news" is that this year, for the first time, we will be holding our Servant Leadership Academy in Kiev, Ukraine.  The Kiev Academy will be held from June 20 to July 5, for about 15 students from Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Afghanistan.  The reason we started the "Academy" in the first place, is because our ISLP students wanted to see real-life examples of servant leadership.  We are excited about the opportunity to do this, not only in the USA, but now in Ukraine.  We believe the Kiev Academy will bring out even more deeply the challenges and realities of what it takes to live as a servant leader in the real world.

We are very grateful for the involvement of many of our ISLP graduates in the upcoming Kiev Academy, who will be helping our directors, Valentina Yakuba and Maria Cherpack.  Once again, we see that the ideas we shared, even many years ago, have not died.  In fact, you are now taking the responsibility to continue to share these ideas with others.  This is a tremendous encouragement to us.

Don't forget that you can always communicate with us and many of those involved with Co-Serve on our Facebook Page. If you haven't recently - check out the page - where you can see recent photos of Co-Serve programs and people in Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Afghanistan.

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