The creation of Empowering has been made possible by friends, colleagues and a community with an unstoppable sense of purpose. It began after Sophie and I drove 8000 km over a 3 week period to bring 34 Ukrainian people, together with their cats and dogs, from the Ubla and Uzhgorod borders with Slovakia. We were incredibly grateful and heartwarmingly touched when family and friends donated over 7500 euros in response to our plea for help. This allowed us to take hundreds of kilos of food and other provisions to a humanitarian aid corridor at Ubla and to hire an 8 seater van to make our long drives with precious people as comfortable as possible. Community support continued to be the glue that held this whole mission together and propelled us forward on a wave of purpose far greater than our own ideals.
We wish to give special thanks to all who donated and to CarLove, Novy Mlyn and Spolek Elbancice for making those journeys to the Ukrainian border possible. Also to Akzo Nobel who supplied us with paint and to Previo who gave us much support. Our deepest gratitude is for Insighters who have empowered us at every step by offering us free marketing and PR support whilst also giving physical and mental support with painting, business plans, marketing strategies and the like.
Our landlord Jacob and his Mum also deserve a special mention. When we found their property and believed it a perfect match for our needs, they graciously accepted our comment of ‘we have no money’ and instead focused on the fact that they liked us and appreciated our ideas. Since these early days, we have battled through the bureaucracy with unwavering determination thanks to a great lawyer and our Administrative Director, Tereza Goldamerova. Our dear friend Kendra Gaffin stepped forward in the very first days with a full concept note that we had to simply edit and we were so impressed by her professionalism and willingness to help despite her starting a new management position, we invited her to be our Strategic and Marketing Director. Ashish Dharap, a person we met at the Ukrainian border, became a super supporter too with his business acumen and willingness to help us formulate our concept into a business plan. We have also joyfully accepted help from other friends, especially Stefano Urbani and Mike Burgess who have helped with building, joinery, plastering and all the heavier refurb stuff to get the space ready.
We have of course experienced our highs and lows, working long hours, sometimes up to 17 hours per day, with frantic moments of problem solving and other moments where only stopping, taking a breath, and reflecting served best. Throughout this, have been carried as if on a wave of purpose. There has never been a question in our hearts or minds about ‘if’ we should do this, only ‘how’ we can overcome any obstacles. Our own practices of yoga, qi-gong, meditation and time in nature have been the foundation upon which we have maintained our own wellbeing.
In the first few weeks we met Alina and Olena, two professional English teachers from Ukraine who quickly got involved. Their support has been invaluable and allowed us to create curriculum whilst being in contact with the Ukrainian community to assess their needs. The response from one simple Telegram post has been staggering, with over 500 people responding and almost 1000 places on language courses requested. We are now in the position of extremely high demand and very little monetary resources as we begin our campaigns for donations and apply ourselves to the monotonous and complex journey of grant applications. To fulfil the current demand, we will need to employ a minimum of 6 Ukrainian teachers and yet we have no budget right now. Whilst we trust that the wider community throughout many countries will support our cause, we cannot employ vulnerable people based on our intuition. We have also been contacted by many specialist Ukrainian therapists, including psychologists who we would love to employ but again, we are currently without the resources to do so. Our next steps are crucial to the success of the project and our ability to employ Ukrainian people to give free services to Ukrainian people. Now we must appeal for donnations from the public, companies and corporations. We would love to believe that our simple requests would be immediately heard and granted but our experience here in Prague is that people’s ability to donate is slowing down. Resources are overstretched and many charities such as ours are asking for help. So what defines us? What makes us an organisation to support?
We are givers. We are empowerers. We have integrity. We share our stories and the stories of the people we help and work with. You can see who you empower by choosing to support us. You directly empower employment and integration. You empower thousands of people by choosing us and you empower yourself in doing so. You can meet the people you help us to employ by visiting our cafe or using our language and wellbeing services. You can become part of the community in an active way or you can enjoy seeing our projects from a distance and know in your heart that you were part of this.
You can get involved and empower us to facilitate community integration and employ up to 20 Ukrainian specialists as teachers, therapists and baristas. By donating 100kc #ForThePriceOfACoffee NOW using the QR code on our website, following us on social media, sharing our stories, regularly visiting our website, donating items from our checklist, visiting our up and coming cafe and choosing our language services. You can also enjoy our specialist wellbeing services through individual bookings or as a membership program for your company. We will continue to develop our website with more details but in the meantime, you can contact us for more information on our upcoming events, programs and membership services.
Lisa and the Empowering Team