The Project emerged in response to appeals for training from Central and East European women, who wished to create community projects to meet new social needs. Initially under the umbrella of the Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women, it was proposed that a programme might be organised and named the ‘Lydia Project’ after the story of Lydia in Acts 16 of the New Testament. Lydia was independent entrepreneur who dealt in purple (either the cloth or the dye which was hard to obtain) and a feisty woman, who managed to convince Paul to come home with her and baptise her whole household.
The trial project ran 2 x 3-week phases in 1995-96, Phase I in Prague, Phase II in Scotland, a successful pattern which has been repeated. We were invited to the Balkan region in 1997 by a former participant and organised training in central Bulgaria and Scotland. A further invitation led to a programme in the Baltic region in 1999 and 2001 involving former participants in the organisation and running of the event. The first gathering of all training groups together was in 2000, at the invitation of the Barka Foundation in Poznan, when 60 women met to share and develop know-how, mutual inspiration, and awareness of new work across the whole of Eastern Europe. A final training programme of 6 weeks was held in Romania and Scotland for Black Sea participants in 2002-3, again involving former participants in the organisation and planning.
Once a variety of new NGOs was developing in many Eastern countries, peer learning exchange programmes were held, when participants could visit many new projects and organisations in Albania, Serbia & Montenegro, Romania and Lithuania 2004-2005. A rich exchange enabled further improvements of community work.
With financial support from the Church of Scotland Guild (2006 - 2009), new joint projects were developed by a gathering of Lydia Project women in 2006 at the Barka Foundation, Poland. Varied international projects were planned under the headings: Children on the Edge; Never Too Late to Learn;Children Not for Sale!;Camps for street children & refugees:Summer School for Facilitators