I have been in the Ukraine for a month now to work with HOPE Ukraine for my second Kiva fellowship. Whilst I was in Ghana for KF13 life felt very easy. I was really fortunate to be visiting clients on field trips most weeks, the sun was shining and life by the beach was very relaxing. In February I moved to the Ukraine for Kiva Fellowship number two and I’ll be honest, it was a bit of a challenge. I’m pretty good with changing environments but it was like life was flipped 180 degrees.
I moved from the beach to an industrial city called Zaporozhye in Eastern Ukraine. The temperature went from 35 degrees C in the shade to -20 degrees C overnight. I went from an Anglophone country to an ex-Soviet country where I couldn’t even read the characters, let alone speak the language. I spent the first month trying to find my feet. I was really fortunate to be connected with some other volunteers here and started to make some friends, but I felt like something was missing…
I’ve now realised what that was- Kiva clients! I’m sure that most of the fellows before and after me will agree that the best thing about being a Kiva Fellow is meeting borrowers. It is an absolute privilege to be able to gain an insight into their lives- to go on an adventure when you often have no idea how the day will pan out and spend the day meeting fantastic people.
Last Friday I finally had the opportunity to meet up with one of HOPE Ukraine’s loan officers, Andrey, and visit the market and his clients. I got onto a marshrutka bus in Zaporozhye (which I hoped was the right one), and a few hours and some interesting sights later (snow filled fields, ice fishing and sloped roofed Ukrainian houses) I jumped off at Novomoskosk.
Markets are the heart of the cities and towns here in the Ukraine- bustling centres of trade and community and Novomoskok’s market was no exception. I had a wonderful few hours visiting and interviewing clients. They were all fabulous people who were fascinating to meet; there was Sergei who runs several outlets of seeds for flowers and vegetables in the town (he sells books during Summer months, seeds in Spring), Yana who sells women’s clothing because it is close to her soul (she told me she likes to be surrounded by pretty clothes all day!) and Irina, one of HOPE Ukraine’s first clients in the region who sells men’s clothes because men make quick decisions to buy, rather than women who are emotionally attached to shopping! These really are brilliant people- spending all day standing in the freezing temperatures to make sure their businesses are a success. I only caught the end of Winter in the Ukraine but the hardiness of people here is quite humbling.
So I really just wanted to give Sergey, Yana, Irina and co. a shout out for getting me back into the fellows groove. I’m now really enjoying the new challenge and I’m looking forward to updating you all as my Kiva Fellowship continues.
I hope you enjoy the pictures I took on the day.Click to view slideshow.
by Jacqueline Gunn, currently working as a KF14 Kiva Fellow at HOPE Ukraine and very pleased that the sun is shining and the ice has started melting!