fresh off of karen's LIFT conference. what an amazing experience. an upLIFTing experience, if i may. and i suppose i may because, well, you can't stop me.
the conference was only for women--i was the only guy there--and we had students come from as far away as chernihivska oblast (practically russia :)). we spent four days talking about gender equality, violence against women, and project planning, among others.
karen planned the conference for months and, of course, ukraine stepped in its own way several times. the site was less that optimal, less than supportive, and we got thrown a curveball in having to pay for a hostel we were led to believe would be free. add to that a few drunk men hassling us about having a conference / giving us keys (who worked at the site!!!). add to that the last minute snafu of not having access to the money karen raised from friends and family over the past few months and the lead up to the conference was a NIGHTMARE!
but then the conference went off without much of a hitch. we worked our booties off for four straight days and changed a lot of women's lives. they were so appreciative of the time we spent with them/the things we taught them. at the end of the conference, different teams had to present a project they were going to implement in their community to make the lives of normal ukrainians better. one group talked about how they were going to collect money to make cotton bags and encourage people--through selling the bags and passing out information with the bags--to reduce their dependency on plastic bags (which are choking the environment in many countries, ukraine not excluded). one student asked how they were going to get the government involved in the project.
the woman discussing the project, ulyana, said, "we aren't going to involve the government. this is something we can do ourselves."
that little statement gets the "best thing i've heard in ukraine in two years" award.
LIFT was the most rewarding thing i've done in ukraine, hands down. i'm so glad karen didn't have to cancel it at the last second because of all the bs that came down the pipe. those girls we a part of a great thing and they know it.