Thursday, November 10, 2016

Life in Ukraine: Week One

It's crazy to imagine I've already been in Ukraine a week. I'm in the awkward twilight zone of living moment by moment so it seems I've lived here forever while simultaneously feeling like I stepped off the plane yesterday.

When I did get off the plane, I was greeted by my friend and Hope for Orphans (HfO) team member Masha, who then took me to the HfO home where I have been staying until I can find an apartment. Masha lives in the HfO home and runs the transition program for kids who have aged out of the orphanage and are studying at university or trade school in Kyiv. 5 boys currently live in the HfO home and I've enjoyed getting to know them and their personalities a little better. Most of the boys love rap and hip hop and sometimes play a song and see if I can guess the artist. I'm not well versed in rap or hip hop, but I did introduce them to Lecrae, NF, Flame, Grandmaster Flash, and Daveed Diggs; it's been a fun connection point. 

My past and present ventures in Ukraine continuously teach me to appreciate every moment I am able to connect with someone. Not having a solid grasp on the language and still having so much to learn about the culture has made me hyper aware and attune to details. Having to read body language, facial expressions, and tone forces me to focus on the person(s) in front of me and be fully present. Every moment someone communicates something to me or I to them is a gift I value rather than a moment easily taken for granted.

I've been gifted with moments of connection with the boys at the HFO house, kids in two orphanages near Kyiv and one in Mariupol so far this week. Kids and adults I meet ask me why I left the U.S. to live in Ukraine. It's something I ask myself moment by moment :). Yes, I am here to serve orphans, but I can do that anywhere. I'm here because I love these people and want to learn and grow with them in this beautiful and difficult country. 

There is a dire need for trauma healing both for kids living in chronic trauma and those who are in the middle of the war in the East. My desire is to fuse the trauma healing resources I'm connected to with the work HfO is already doing. I've talked to several team members about this and am excited to see how this develops.

Another project I'm working on is inviting teams to join us for summer camps in 2017. Having teams from other countries come support the HfO team energizes the HfO team and is a great opportunity for the kids to interact with people from other countries. I may be going to London next month to connect with churches there. If you know a church in the States that may be interested in sending a team, let me know and we can talk about what that would look like.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

I'm really bad at remembering to take pictures, but here are a few...

On the train to Mariupol. I successfully asked for a spoon from the train attendant in Russian. #smallwins

Mariupol! We had a special time getting to celebrate our friend Dima's birthday and prepare for winter camp at the orphanage next month.

The Sea of Azov! And here I thought it would be months before I would get to see the sea again. Not the Gulf Stream, but I'll take whatever saltwater I can get.

Teaching English in an orphanage near Kyiv