Life in Kyiv

I find it hard to believe that only a month has passed since I arrived in Ukraine. Although in certain ways the time has gone by quickly, I feel very much immersed in the culture which makes life in Canada seem very far away!
I have enjoyed this past week in Kiev with Analu very much. Our work days do not exactly resemble a typical day in Calgary, however I believe that spending time in ‘real life’ mode here has been a very beneficial learning experience. I have had the opportunity to talk further with employees of National Office, spend time with several YMCA volunteers, and do a great deal of brainstorming with Analu.
I was also pleasantly surprised with the opportunity to catch up with an old friend! Some of you may remember meeting Kristina Ilyushina, a Ukrainian delegate from the Youth Peace Network, during her visit to Calgary last summer. Kristina is a very strong YMCA Ukraine volunteer, and leads programs such as HIV/aids awareness trainings in her city Donetsk. Last summer I had the pleasure of showing Kristina my favorite part of living in Calgary, our beautiful backyard in the Rockies! We had a really great time, and even discussed how it would be great if I could visit Ukraine and see her again in the future. At that point, I honestly didn’t know whether either of those things would actually happen, so it was pretty incredible to meet up with her in Kiev! Kristina was so excited to show Analu and I around her country, as we had done for her in Canada. Although we have not known each other for long, it was really apparent that the three of us share many common values, which I think is undoubtedly related to our involvement with the YMCA.
Today Analu and I met for coffee with a few YMCA volunteers, who we believe hold great potential in getting strong programs off the ground in Kyiv. These volunteers are eager to expand the YMCA movement in their city, and seem very motivated to get others involved. I felt inspired watching Analu and the volunteers plan the next steps for their association and am truly excited to see how their plans unfold. Thanks to technology, I may even participate in some of their planning meetings and attempt to stay in the loop via Skype!
I better get going, as Marta and Roma from Volyn YMCA will be arriving in Kyiv in just a few hours! I am really looking forward to seeing them again, as well as debriefing some more thoughts about camp and our partnership in general. I cannot think of a better way to spend my last couple of days in Kyiv. Although as I am sad to wrap up this amazing experience, I am also really looking forward to sharing ideas with folks in Calgary, and applying what I learned here in new ways.
I will leave you with a photo from our meeting today – Analu and several awesome volunteers in Kyiv!