COSTA MESA — Kateryna Malakhova, 23, grew up in the small town of Novakakhovka, Ukraine, dreaming about playing tennis in Europe, living near the beach and giving the children in her community a place to play.
But in the Eastern European city of her youth there was a sense of closed doors and of corruption, she said.
Nevertheless, Malakhova accomplished her first dream, is living her second and is on her way to the third — a project she believes will give fresh hope to her old community that change can happen.
"I want to show that everything is possible and bring that hope," Malakhova said in a thick Russian accent.
In her final semester at Vanguard University, Malakhova is working with Vice President of Students Affairs Ann Hamilton and the organization Kids Around the World to bring a refurbished playground to the heart of Novakakhovka.
The playground will give children a place to use their imaginations and parents a chance to stop and converse, Hamilton said.
"For these kids, it will be a place where they can be a child," she said.
The two, along with Hamilton's family and a team from the Vanguard community, will be flying to the Ukraine on June 10 for about two weeks to bring Malakhova's dream to life.
The idea has been with Malakhova for years, but it wasn't until she shared her dream with Hamilton that the ball began to roll.
"Fate brought us together," Malakhova said. "Ann was the one [person] who actually said, 'Let's take a look at it.'"
Malakhova was at an annual dinner in August that Hamilton hosts at her home for student leaders when the conversation turned to dreams.
"I saw this flame in Katya, and I wanted to fan the fire," Hamilton said.
With the playground project underway, Malakhova said she has a new dream in mind — working for the United Nations.
"Everything is possible and you should just go for it," she said. "You will find another dream like I found Ann."