As “The Big Meet” prepares its grand finale event of the year on Dec. 15 at Lunca, Kyiv Post had the pleasure of sitting down with Olga Kearley, owner and organizer of Kyiv’s #1 networking event for expats and locals.

We explore Olga’s insights on the choice of the venue, her latest chosen charitable cause, and her exciting plans for “The Big Meet” in 2024.

Join us as we unravel the festive spirit and heartwarming intentions behind “The Big Meet” at Lunca.

More details about the event, including geolocation and other info can be found here.

Olga, how did you decide on Lunca as the venue for The Big Meet grand finale of 2023?

Lunca was a purposeful choice. The first and most famous speakeasy in Kherson initially opened in 2015 and operated until its premises were occupied by the Russian military.

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In the spring of 2023, the founders, bartenders, and chefs came together to establish a new location in Kyiv. Now, Lunca stands as a bar with a cozy courtyard in the heart of Kyiv, where [people] are always welcome.

Lunca embodies the resilience of the Ukrainian people, an indomitable spirit, and boundless love for one's work. People at Lunca didn’t give up; they reopened because they are passionate about what they do. In the same spirit, “The Big Meet” restarted its events and all Ukrainians went back to doing what they love and are passionate about.

The forthcoming event aims to raise Hr. 30,000 [$800] for the NE SAMI charity. Can you tell us more about why you chose to support this charity and the impact you hope to achieve with the funds raised?

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NE SAMI, or Ukr Not Alone, is an organization that provides high-quality and systematic assistance in the evacuation and further adaptation of the civilian population from the frontline areas.

The idea came about when a volunteer, Oleksandra Sakharuk, saw that many people couldn’t leave these places because they had no money and nowhere to go, or were scared of losing their homes.

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The existing help from the government wasn’t enough. So, NE SAMI was created to give people a full solution – from finding them a new home to helping them settle in.

Here’s how they work: They share information about their program in areas near conflict zones, talk to people, and help them move out, considering their specific needs. They team up with housing organizations and villages to find long-term homes for those people. Once someone is out, they get support for 6-12 months from a care manager who helps with different things to make their new life easier.

In just eight months, NE SAMI visited 32 places, helped over 200 people move, and currently supports 103 people in their program. They also do other projects like camps for kids and programs for adults to help everyone adjust better.

So, for our upcoming event, we have a heartfelt goal: to raise Hr. 30,000 to create Christmas boxes for displaced families. These special boxes aim to bring warmth and joy to those who have been through difficult times.

The idea is simple yet powerful – 100 boxes for 100 people. By contributing to this cause, the community can come together to share the spirit of the season and make a positive impact on the lives of displaced families during the holiday season. It's an opportunity to give a gift of warmth and support to those who truly need it.

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Every contribution, big or small, brings us one step closer to reaching our goal and spreading holiday cheer to those in need.

As The Big Meet bids farewell to 2023, could you share any notable achievements or milestones from the previous events this year that you are particularly proud of?

Certainly! One of the most remarkable accomplishments is the successful restart of our events. In all honesty, I could not have anticipated the overwhelming attendance and the profound impact these gatherings would have on people. Witnessing the community come together in ways I hadn't imagined has been truly heartening.

What makes me even prouder is the meaningful support we’ve been able to provide to charities through these events. Over the course of 10 gatherings, we’ve managed to donate a substantial sum of Hr.103,000 [$2,800]. It’s deeply gratifying to see our platform not only as a space for connection but also as a means to make a positive difference in the lives of those in need.

Furthermore, our commitment extends beyond monetary contributions. We’ve actively promoted these charities, raising awareness of their causes and connecting some of them with potential donors. “The Big Meet” has become a place for positive change, fostering connections that go beyond our events and creating a lasting impact on the charitable organizations we support. I look forward to continuing this journey of making a difference in the year ahead.

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Do you have any exciting plans or new initiatives for “The Big Meet” in 2024? Are there specific areas or themes you hope to explore or any changes in the format or scale of the events that participants can look forward to?

Looking ahead to 2024, we’re incredibly excited about the prospects for “The Big Meet.” One of our foremost hopes is to continue providing a sense of joy and unity amidst the challenging backdrop of war. The events will persist, and we have no plans to alter the beloved format that participants have come to enjoy.

As we approach our sixth birthday in February, we’re reflecting on the incredible journey so far and looking forward to celebrating this milestone with our community.

Moving forward, we’re eager to initiate partnerships that align with our values. In particular, we aim to support local Ukrainian brands and companies.

Additionally, we’re excited about establishing connections with businesses run by expats, enriching the diversity of our events, and creating opportunities for cross-cultural exchange. The coming year holds immense promise, and we're thrilled to embark on this journey with our participants and partners.

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If you’d like to support the cause and make a donation to NE SAMI, you can do so here.

Stay informed about future events by following The Big Meet via its Facebook page and on Instagram.

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