My primary partner in my village is Lilianei Malancea and I am working with her organization “Centrul Comunitar „Unitate” . For the Peace Corps COD (Community Organizational Development) program, the primary partner is the organization that applied for the volunteer to be stationed in the village or town. The organization is required to identify a person that will agree to work with the volunteer and assist him/her in getting to know the organization and the village. The organization also needs to have identified possible projects that focus on development of the community’s capacity and well being, projects beyond just getting money to install something like a park or water well.
Lily started “Centrul Comunitar „Unitate” in 2004 with the support of Keystone Moldova. You can read more about the history of the center on the Keystone website. I’ll share more about the center and my projects in up coming posts.
For now a glimpse at my first month:
- Drawing a community Map: I started this with a walk of the village with some local teenagers when I first arrived in Tudora and then continued to explore everyday in August. I was able to meet more people as well as to gain the making my way around the village. The main part of the village is set up as a grid and is very easy to navigate, then there is the other parts of the village that tend to be dirt/gravel roads and are not on google maps.
- Building Relationships in the community- I have met many people in the community so far and hope to meet more over the next few months. This includes the director of the elementry/middle school, the teachers and other staff at the school, the staff at the kindergarten, the mayor, the staff at the mayor’s office (accountants, agricultural advisors), the librarian, the director the Casa de Cultura, market owner’s and their employees, rutiera drivers, the executive director of another NGO in town as well as parents and neighbors.
Buildings around the Village
- Home Visits- During my first and second week on site, I went with staff members of the center to visit the homes of potential beneficiaries. It was wonderful to meet some of the students and their parents or grandparents before school started. It was also a glimpse into the variety of living conditions of the people of the village; some beneficiaries come from very poor economic situations and some from homes that have better economic situations; however, one or both the parents works abroad, is suffering from a serious illness or has passed away.
Meetings, Surveys, and Teaching!
- Strategic Planning- Lily and I pulled together various documents to clearly identify Centrul Comunitar „Unitate” ‘s mission, vision and values. Through this we started to simplify some of the language and identified a need to clarify the values of the organization. Documenting the values of an organization allows the staff to make better decisions and identify the opportunities that better align with the organization.
- Survey for the parents with children at the center- For COD volunteers, the survey is a key tool. In the past, Moldovans were not asked their opinion about projects or needs; they were told what to do and when. So surveying for opinions and needs is new to many Moldovans. For the Center, we agreed that it was important for Lily and her team to know what the parents understood about the services that are provided, the expectations and needs of the parents and to find out what events the parents could help with. Lily and her team quickly put together the first survey for parents and we had the parents fill it out during the initial Parents Meeting.
- Friday Club- we held the first session of the “Friday Club” and started to build a list of potential activities. Lily started the club a few years ago as a way to stay connected to the older students (grades 6-9) and to continue to instill leadership, volunteering and community.
- SWOT Analysis and Appreciative Inquiry Session- Lily and I ran a session to discuss the Strength/Weakness/Opportunities/Threats of the organization with the staff members and also conducted an Appreciative Inquiry survey that helped to identify the values for the organization that can assist in decision making. We’ll be using this to build the next steps of the the organization’s strategic plan.
- Substitute teaching for English class- One of the English teachers had to attend a seminar so the Director of the School asked me to sub for the day. I taught 4 English classes that day. It was exciting to get to know the students that are learning English and was able to tell them about the English Club that I was starting.
- Substitute teaching for Tech Class- I was a substitute teacher one day for 2 typing classes. While there are computers at the school, there are only 8 in the classroom and there were 20+ students in the classes, so I had to figure out how to keep all the children focused when not at the computer screen? The additional fun was that the computers are set to Russian and some of the keyboards were Russian keyboards (not QWERTY keyboards.) I had students draw out keyboards on paper and use that when they were not at the keyboards. I hope that I inspired them to keep practicing simple lessons like typing “J space F space U space R space” over and over by showing them that I can type very fast and accurately without looking at the keyboard. There jaws dropped as I typed out sentences while looking at their faces rather than the keyboard or screen.
One month in and while there were many challenges with my limited Romanian, it was a delight to get to know the village, the students and the wonderful teachers at the school/center.