Events this week
As mentioned, I’m a Community and Organizational Development advisor. This entails working as a consultant for the community in the areas of organizational infrastructure and capacity building.
NGOs are a new phenomenon in the Republic of Moldova. The NGO sector works in a challenging environment in a country in transition, where tradition of trust is little, as well as community responsibility. One can see this in full motion after surveying its slow economic reform, social and welfare systems, corruption and crime, and widespread poverty. (However, NGOs are enjoying more credibility and a higher profile due to Coalition 2005—a coalition that published reports on the deficiencies in political processes with successful advocacy for changes).
There are well-established NGOs like the Association for Participatory Democracy (ADEPT), LADOM, and the Independent Journalism Center, where they have sound financial management, sophisticated and modern office equipments, multiple sources of funding and fundraising abilities. On the other end, you have lesser-developed NGOs, ran by a one-man show (mine being a classic example). These types of organizations center their activities on receiving grants and satisfying donor requests. Mission statements are in place, but seldom are engage in long-term strategic planning (which I will be helping to create a 5-yr strategic plan).
For any organization to operate, funding is paramount in making the wheels turn. The majority of the NGOs in Moldova rely heavily on international funding, especially in the form of grants, as community resources are limited within the republic. Most foundations and donors’ request that grant applications be submitted in English, which oftentimes in most start-up NGOs have anyone with a working knowledge of English. This “need” then is transferred over to a Peace Corps Volunteer. So where is the sustainability component to this scenario?
That was a long preface to why I started an English Club. I told myself in September that I did not sign up to be a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) volunteer, but a COD volunteer. The youths in my community have expressed a need to learn English because they said English is spoken all over the world. I turned multiple kids down numerous times and indicated to them that I was busy with my organization. At the end, I agreed to teach English (as if my English is that great anyways) since it will offer me some practice with my Romanian and Russian. Furthermore, I think it will be a wonderful way to get to know the youths and hopefully introduce the idea of volunteerism, which can result in sustainability and creating public value.
And so, the first class started this past Tuesday with a turn-out of 25 students in my village. We started with introductions and greetings. I’m splitting the group up in two because there is a huge disparity in ages (10 yrs.—26 yrs.).
Since I started one in my village, I decided I’ll ask the principal of the grade school in the neighboring village of Manta to start a club there as well. In this way, I can use the same activities and techniques for teaching both classes in both villages. Anyways, I told the principal I wanted a class comprised 15—20 students, the more attentive and hard-working kind (of course!). So today, I go to the school to meet the selected students in my English Club and they’re energetic and ready to go (mind you, this is after school). There are exactly 20 students sitting up straight as a pencil with their eyes focused at me as I entered the room. The Principal and the Romanian teacher, Domna Zina, was there to greet me and had a list of students, which included their name, grade, and age (in perfect Romanian calligraphy!).I thought to myself ‘hey, this shouldn’t be so bad; they look discipline and eager.’ We did some ice-breaker games and I told them I’ll have a syllabus for them next week. As the excitement of learning English buzzed through the school throughout the previous few days, some students have approached me and asked me how they can get in this very exclusive and distinguished club (or so I like to think). Their eyes were literally tearing-up as I apologized and responded that I can only accommodate so much (in my broken Romanian). What a way to end a Friday, huh?
Yesterday, Ambassador Kirby, his wife, JKC, and four other volunteers (including myself) had lunch in Cahul (the closest major city, 10 km north of my village). After which, we toured an English center at a Russian-speaking high-school. There were approximately 15 English students and ourselves at a table discussing “American miracles” and what it means to us. Some of the responses from the host country nationals (HCNs) included: Las Vegas, the Statue of Liberty, and Elvis Presley. Practically all their answers had something to do with an American icon. In contrast, the American responses consisted of modern medicine, cultural and ethnic diversity in America, and the desire to catch your dream. It seemed as though the HCNs’ responses were homogenous, the more Hollywoodic side of America, whereas the Americans’ responses were more of what America prided itself in—a melting pot of possibilities in any way imaginable. What I love about America are the many people from all over the globe that makes America unique. We are able to make mistakes, fail, and try again. In their world, one mistake and you’re not able to try again.
Today, the Ambassador, his wife, and JKC visited Artizana. I gave them a tour of the instructional room, the intended “computer room”, the workshop, the kitchen, and the salon, aka conference room. My counterpart and I showed them the finished products of basket-weaving done by the beneficiaries (children from socially vulnerable families) of our organization. We talked at length over the mission of our organization and how hands-on my counterpart is. He’s the type that is gung-ho (sp.?) about a project that he overlooks where it fits in within the mission and only sees it as a short-term goal. Thus, it becomes problematic for our organization because one cannot live on grants (or fish) alone nor can one not have a plan for long-term sustainability if growth is the end result. Pictured is my counterpart, Constantin, me (bad hair-day), Mrs. Kirby and Ambassador Kirby. Courtesy of JKC.
This entry is a little tedious on events that occurred this week. I do have funny stories, I do! But after today’s activities, I’m too exhausted to amuse you.