Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Kristina Hulvershorn - Founder of "The Ethic Project"

Meet Extraordinary Ordinary Vegan -
Kristina Hulvershorn

What is the name, website and email address of your organization?
The Ethic Project
http://www.ethicproject.org/, connect@ethicproject.org

What situation or event inspired you to become vegan?
It was a natural evolution from being an enviromentalist and feminist. I was a sophomore in high school and was critical enough of the dominant culture that I could question its treatment toward women and the enviroment. At the same time, however, it was hard for me to question its treatment of animals. At one point, I just realized that I was critical of some forms of oppression, while accepting another.

This realization opened the flood-gates, so to speak. After that, I allowed myself to read books on veganism and animal rights with an open mind and form my own opinions. Strangely, becoming vegetarian (which I did in 7th grade) was a simple thing for me. It was simply the "right" thing to do for the animals. Becoming vegan, however, was far more of a challenge for me and it forced me into some serious critical thinking and soul searching. I have been vegan now for about 13 years and have never looked back!

Who / what was the biggest influence on your path?
I had a couple of friends in high school who initially showed me that it is possible to live this way. Beyond that, I'd say that logic and concern for the animals are my greatest influences.

What are your most significant accomplishments and /or the one(s) you are most proud of?
I am proudest when I have influenced someone in a positive way. In my everyday encounters with friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances I, truthfully, hardly notice the small conversations we have around issues of compassion.

Nonetheless, I can't tell you how many times people have come to me weeks, months, or sometimes even years later, explaining how meaningful a simple interaction was to them. People often recount conversations or actions that subtly encouraged them to change something in their lives. People often tell me that it is more about the confidence I have in my own choices, my being non-judgmental, or my willingness to explain things to them, that enables them to think about making these changes for themselves. Hearing this is beyondg encouraging. It inspires me and thrills me to witness the ripple effect of kindness.

What goals are you still working toward?
Although I am constantly working toward personal goals in living a more compassionate life, I am also compelled to offer others what I have learned on my journey and from my masters in Humane Education.

Tell us more about your non-profit organization, The Ethic Project.
I am currently building a non-profit called The Ethic Project. It is an organization that offers educational opportunities in humane education. We teach participants about living a compassionate life through the lenses of enviromental, social, animal, and local issues. The idea is to illuminate not only the issues themselves but to also encourage participants to draw the lines themselves connecting how their own actions influence these issues. We have a broad array of interactive workshops, teacher trainings, and classroom activities that cover issues anywhere from where food comes from to modern human slavery.

What was / is your greatest challenge?
I would say my greatest challenge when it comes to humane education is maintaining contact with the participants. Rich, relevant learning takes place when a person has time to process something, to think for themselves, and then to ultimately make a decision. This often takes long periods of time.

I have worked with students before, sometimes even for more than a year and have known that they could use more time to process and come back with questions or simply to have someone act as a sounding board. Change is a difficult process and we can be fairly stubborn creatures when it comes to new ideas. It is hard to work with people to understand something for a short period of time and not be around to help support them in the process of reflecting and following through. This is not to say that people "change" with every educational opportunity, but rather that the educational interaction is of far greater quality when the teacher and student have prolonged access.

It is as if a piano teacher teaches a new method of improvisational jazz to a student. Although it is up to the student to actually make the improvised music, the student has a greater chance to grow as a musician if there is continued exposure to her teacher. The same is true for any educational endeavor and humane education is no exception.

Also, like any other non-profit, one of our greatest challenges is securing funds to do our important work. Most schools work to create an educated community, forgetting that if we are educated and not compassionate, we are creating a world without kindness, concern, or warmth. This is a world of brilliant discoveries, like atomic energy, full of people unwilling and unable to exercise the kindness necessary to save its own people from its own brilliance.

What advice can you provide others regarding challenges and / or criticism they may encounter on their path?
When choosing any path that diverges from the "norm" people may become critical of your choices. At first this is frustrating and it is tempting to come back with the same negativity and anger that they are directing at you. It is far more powerful however to model compassion and kindness not only in our food choices but also in our interactions with other humans. People tend to "get" the idea of living a compassionate life when we speak with a calm, confident passion rather than a fiery, angry passion.

I am of the opinion that the animals need us to do the very best we can for them. I know that others are far more receptive to new ideas when they are delivered in a positive way, so I have learned that is best to bite my tongue and let negativity and judgments be the problem of the person sending them my way. Compassionate people have better things to worry about than the hostility of others. It is far more powerful to walk the walk so to speak, and be proud of all the good you are doing for the planet and the animals!

Any final thoughts you would like to add?
If anyone is interested in inviting The Ethic Project to offer a workshop at your school, in your neighborhood, or simply working with us, please contact us at kristinahulvershorn@gmail.com or connect@ethicproject.org or call 312.396.5503.


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