What a year this has been! When Travis and I decided to go forward with my graduate studies, we knew that it would be life-changing. It would mean a move, a different way of life, and one step closer to living out what has been a lifelong passion and dream for both of us. In many ways, both good and bad, the year has been much more than we anticipated. We have been stretched, challenged, and all the more convinced that this work is the right work for us. And for the past several months, we have been incredibly eager for the summer to arrive! It is finally here, and it all begins in ten days when I fly out to Pennsylvania for three days of training and then to the Ukraine for ten weeks with Hope International.
This summer represents much of what has inspired us and what we have been working toward. I am spending ten and a half weeks working with Hope International (http://www.hopeinternational.org/) as an intern for their microfinance program in the Ukraine. Travis will be joining me in week nine to work with Hope as well through the end of my internship. It is an opportunity of a lifetime: a chance for us to work with an incredible Christian INGO to help shape and deliver programs that holistically address poverty among those on the margins of an increasingly globalized society. It is the chance to engage in human rights advocacy in a way that utilizes everything I feel I have to offer. It is exciting, humbling, and - to be honest - intimidating all at once. I have much more to learn than I have to offer. But this is the first step of many in a lifetime of this work and with what we know to be one of the best NGO's worldwide, so we are looking forward to what the summer will bring.
I will be spending most of the summer in Zaporozhye, which is about two hundred miles south of Kyiv. I know little of the language (Ukranian and Russian) and little of the culture. While it's not required, I hope to become a least conversational in Ukranian and Russian by summer's end. Maybe by the time Travis arrives, I'll be able to get around without the aid of my Russian/English dictionary - here's hoping! My work will require much flexibility - my main purpose is to help with the development and delivery of Hope's microfinance programs and policy. While much has been invested into me across the past year with regard to microfinance, policy, and human rights advocacy, I know that working with programs on the ground is vastly different from researching them and working with them in academic settings. To that end, I think that this summer will be a time of tremendous learning and growth for me. I'm hoping that this experience changes me in many ways. Most importantly, I'm hoping that it connects me in very real ways to the struggles of those who live under the burdens of poverty and in areas where resources are scarce. In turn, I hope that enables me to become more effective in my work and most importantly, in encouraging others to become involved.
I am incredibly grateful not only for the opportunity, but also for support that I have received for this work. A generous fellowship from the Upper Midwest Human Rights Program, combined with an equally generous grant from the University of Minnesota Office of International Programs have funded this work. I am looking forward to sharing what I learn and experience this summer with my communities. I hope that it will inspire others to become involved in human rights work and to take on what can otherwise seem to be impossible challenges.
I am also incredibly grateful to my family, who have made so many sacrifices and have done so much to support me in the work that I do. Today I said good-bye to them - three months may not seem to be a long time, but it is long for a family that is close. And it is very long for an aunt of such incredible nieces and nephews! I'm looking forward to sharing pictures with them across the summer - they have exciting summers in store as well!
My main motivation for setting up this blog has been to share the work of Hope and my experiences with you across the summer. If I can figure out my camera and computer, I'll be posting pictures as well. After the internship, Travis, Ashley (my amazing summer roommate), and I will traveling for ten days through Europe, so watch for pictures at the end as well!