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New Projects and Mixed Emotions

After a day to rest from the camp, things are back into full swing for me at the Nadezdha Ukraine headquarters in Zaporozhye. With five weeks left to my internship, there remains much to be done! Yesterday, Maxym (my supervisor next to Paul) walked me through several projects that I will be working on throughout the rest of my time here. And today, he led me through a few more that will certainly fill my remaining time! I am excited about each - each is different and contributes to the work of this organization in unique ways. I think the variety will help to keep things fresh and expand upon what I am learning here.

Throughout my time here, I have felt increasingly satisfied with and blessed by this internship. Maxym has been tremendous at allowing me the time that I need to fulfill my tasks as an intern and Upper Midwest Human Rights fellow and at incorporating my personal goals for learning and development into the projects I am working on. One of my goals for the summer was to learn about the MIS systems that connect the various Nadezdha Ukraine offices throughout the country, and how the microfinance loans are processed. Yesterday, two Nadezdha Ukraine staff members led me through the entire process. I was impressed by the sophistication of the organization's systems - it truly spoke to HOPE's desire to be as effective and efficient as possible. As an organization, they are truly outstanding stewards of the resources they are given.

I was surprised through the day to realize the degree to which microfinance is still group based in this country. For the most part, microfinance in Ukraine is individual based rather than the traditional group based methods used in other areas of poverty and hardship. I knew that Nadezdha retained an element of the group based method, but seeing the processes used with loans and clients revealed how deeply that relational and group based method still ran. In that way, Ukraine has been unique and possibly the most informative place I could have served this summer. Ukraine is a unique mix of individual and group based methods. Furthermore, the country's finance systems are in transition - currently combining elements of traditional Asian relationship based systems with Western credit based systems. At times it seems incredibly complex, but (at least to me!) it is always intriguing.

A second surprise to me was how similar the basic MIS systems were to programs I used in the mortgage industry. Perhaps what is most impressive about that is that Nadezdha's own IT staff member, Yuri, designed the entire program from start to finish. They are currently using Yuri's second edition of the program - this guy amazes me.

Aside from learning more about the organization and finance systems, I have continued work on the Kiva/HOPE International partnership in Ukraine. I love, love, LOVE this part of my work. For now, I'm given the basic facts and information about our clients, which I use to develop client profiles for Kiva. In a few weeks, when Travis arrives, we will be going out to conduct interviews with clients throughout Zaporozhye, creating profiles from start to finish. It is exciting to see this partnership continuing to develop and to be a part of those efforts.

Across the end of this week, I've been given two new projects that I am absolutely estatic about. The first I will begin next week. I will be working with Maxym on Nadezdha's Social Performance Indicator Surveys. These surveys are used with clients to conduct a holistic assessment of the organization's effectiveness with individual clients. Beyond looking at quantitative factors such as increases in clients' income or business capital, these surveys look to the individual lives of clients to see how Nadezdha's/HOPE's programs have impacted the clients in areas such as confidence, skills, future goals, hope, faith, and other areas. I'll be working with Maxym to assess the current surveys and possibly revise the survey and assessment process.

My second new project truly ties together my work with children last week and my work in microfinance. A big reason I was invited to be a part of the children's camp was to work with the children of microfinance clients. In this second project, I will be working with these families to evaluate the children's experiences in the camp and how that has impacted the family as a whole. It truly helps me to feel that my work is gaining cohesion and clarity. And it gives me another opportunity to interact with these incredible children!!!

As I look on toward the next few weeks, I truly have mixed emotions. I am incredibly eager for the next three weeks to pass quickly so that Travis can join me here. Yet his arrival leaves only two weeks for me in this place. In the same way, I am eager to see my family and friends, to return home, and to share as much as I can about this experience. But doing so occurs only at the expense of leaving behind the deep friendships I have made here, a country and people that I have come to love, incredible leaders that have taught me so much about what I am eager to learn, and work that I love. I know that Travis and I will continue to partner with HOPE well past this summer, but I will truly miss the daily connection with my friends and colleagues here. It leaves me with incredibly mixed emotions. So with five weeks remaining in total, I plan to make the most of what time I have remaining, to continue to develop the relationships and work that I have here, and to be thankful that each day brings me closer to my family and friends.