• Pantemeinolivs’ka, 76, Odesa, Ukraine, 65000

Donor Update, Wk 2: Learning in Humility

Sent 12 December 2022

Dear Donors,

Thanks again for your generosity. Hope these emails help you feel connected to the work here! This week I chose the theme “Learning in Humility” due to the great amount of listening I had to do this week. After the first week, where I had to spend some time explaining my purpose in Odesa, I’ve been able to spend more time learning from those who’ve been working here in the city for months. They are eager to have the help from abroad, but they also want to be sure it’s properly coordinated with the work already happening here.

After lots of conversations, visits, meetings, and side-by-side work, I think we may have landed on a target for our first donation. Last Saturday, I was invited to help distribute some small food items at a mental hospital in Odesa with some beautiful Ukrainian and international volunteers:

This “mental hospital” is, however, more like a nursing home for slightly disabled folk. And many of them have been moved from other homes in Kherson and places closer to the front lines of the war, so it can be crowded. We visited three wards in several buildings of the hospital complex. Conditions are not terrible, but not great either:

There were even some moments when I felt a sense of desperation in the people to whom we were giving the food. I don’t know if it comes through in this picture, but for a few of the folks we were helping, it felt like they were worried it was the only food they’d get all day, though I’m sure that was hardly the case:

At any rate, this hospital seemed to fit all the requirements I had been seeking: a population in need, affected by the war, with no regular service from other NGOs or non-profit orgs who would feel like we were competing with them. I’m still discussing with the other volunteers, but it looks like we’ll be helping fund and organize another trip there next Saturday! I’ll keep you updated, and of course it will be posted to social media as much as possible.

Other highlights from the week:

Monday was the first time I lost power since being in Odesa. Since then, I’ve only had power in my apartment for two days (Wed and Thu I believe). That is difficult, but normal for these times. I feel a sense of solidarity with the people of the city and of Ukraine. I have a great portable power bank from a volunteer friend in Moldova, hot water and heat in the house, and warm cafes with wifi and power all over the city. It will not be a problem getting through the winter, even if it takes a little longer to get everything done. After a week with little power, I feel more confidence than anything. Like getting your sea legs under you. (PS AS I FINISHED THIS PARAGRAPH, the power came back on in my apartment. Life is so strange 😆✊🇺🇦)

Wednesday I met with Lifting Hands International. They’re funding a few local NGOs here in Ukraine, and while I’m not sure I’ll get any funding from them myself, both because we’re so new and because we’re based in the US rather than in Ukraine, it was fun to feel have a serious conversation about the issues with a bigger donor (and they have an office in my home state of Utah!). Gave me hope for more funding down the line as we get rolling.

Friday I found myself gathered on the sidewalk with about 100 Ukrainians watching the end of the Portugal-Morocco World Cup match through a storefront. When the final whistle blew and the Moroccans won, the entire crowd erupted in cheers. I think everyone in the world must be cheering those brave boys on at this point. So exciting.

Sunday I had a meal with some young men who were going to the front in Kherson today. They seemed to be avoiding the topic, talking about potential future jobs rather than the dangers they were about to face. It is terrible to think what this war is doing to families and individuals, even as the Ukrainians are doing so well. Even as I cheer them on. I mourn.

And today was a lovely delivery east of Odesa city with the great team at Manifest Mira and the beautiful people of “Island of Hope” church. See more at our Dignity Aid International Instagram page or on my FB/Insta story! 

Sending love to all. Reach out any time with questions or comments. Take care of yourselves always and of everyone else when you can. ‘Til next time,