Caterina has been supportive and encouraging since I made my first visit to Balti to meet my primary organization, work partner, and host family. She gave me my first tour of Balti and celebrated with me on the day I became an official Peace Corps volunteer at the swearing-in ceremony. I have enjoyed getting to know Caterina over the past year and have appreciated the grace she has extended to me as I continue to learn about living and working here in this community.
Caterina is 20 years old (which I often forget, thinking she is much older) and she grew up in Balti. She is currently a senior at the Alexandru Ioan Cuza University from Iasi, extension Balti and is majoring in commerce, services and tourism economics. She works at the primary organization I work with, “Pro Cooperare Regionala (ProCoRe)”, an NGO who works in developing a sustainable rural community in Northern Moldova. At ProCoRe she is a project manager and specifically works with farmers and farming organizations. She is responsible for the implementation of the Farmer Field School (along with 2 others colleagues) and organizes study visits and internships abroad for farmers. Take a moment and get to know my friend, Caterina as she shares a little bit about herself and what she has learned over time from Peace Corps volunteers.
Tell us a bit about yourself…
Aside of being a student and a project manager I am a daughter and sister, and an aunt. I have a wonderful family that works here in Balti. My sister has her own family now with a husband and a 5 years old son. I love to spend time with my nephew biking or just watching Disney cartoons and snacking on candy and pop-corn. Also, I am a volunteer, I like helping with hosting/teaching trainings on different topics, translating or just participating in events organized by different organizations that I respect.
What do you like to do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?
With so many things in my life, I barely ever have free time, but what I really like to do is watching movies, especially TV shows. I really like traveling and even if most of my travels are work related, I always find time to wander around and live the culture of the country I am going to. And the top of them all I just like hanging out with friends, for a cup of tea or ice-cream and discussing life.
Tell us about the first time you met a Peace Corps volunteer…
The first time I was exposed to Peace Corp is when I was about 13 years old. I participated to a summer school called GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) that is a summer school meant to develop strong leaders out of young girls and is teaching a variety of things teenage girls should know in order to prevent situations like bullying or even trafficking. This summer school is organized by PCVs. The first 2 Peace Corps Volunteers I have ever met and develop a friendship with were Sharon and Neha.
Has your perspective on Volunteering changed?
Being only 13, my perspective on volunteering did not change, it only developed. I learned what volunteering is and developed a special love for volunteering. Now, I try my best to have some time left aside for volunteering in my life.
Has your perspective about Americans changed?
It definitely did. The human race always tends to judge different cultures by stereotypes. My thoughts about Americans for sure changed, most important I learned that it is a big mistake to judge according to the stereotypes, as most likely they are lies. Also, I have learned to respect different cultures and to appreciate what I can learn from people that represent them. Now, I know that I have to create an opinion about the person, not the citizenship behind it. My perspective changed in a way that I wait to meet the person before I make an opinion or give a verdict about him or her.
How have Peace Corps volunteers impacted your life?
The first thing that feel like I learned is being patient when having a conversation with a person that speaks a different language then you and that come from a different culture. Also, BE OPEN MINDED! Sometimes what seems ok in your culture may be very offensive to others, so ALWAYS watch your language and be respectful. But also, throughout the years, PCVs discovered in me talents that I didn’t know where there. I became a better leader, that is not afraid of challenges because one day a PCV told me that I could, I have become a better public speaker because one day a PCV told me that I should. I received constructive criticism that made me think about my attitudes and was able to reflect on them and hopefully correct them, but also in general I would say that Peace Corp Volunteers are a part of the base of the person I am today, and even though they still continue forming me in so many different ways.
If you could say one thing to all Peace Corps volunteers what would it be?
Often we do things and don’t feel appreciated enough for that. Even if you have times when you are down, just know that for sure you had an impact on someone, and probably don’t even know about it.
If you could say one thing to all Moldovans about volunteering what would it be?
It is very easy to stay home, watch TV and complain about everything that is shown in the news. If you are waiting for a change in your neighborhood, why don’t you clean your own apartment and help your neighbor to do so too. If you want change in the country, why won’t you start with your community? Stop being ignorant or just complaining about how bad life is. Make a step, do some volunteering and little by little things are going to change to better.
What are some of your hopes for Moldova’s future?
I hope that due to the spreading of the volunteering initiative, and good investments into good people, Moldova will develop a great, stable economic and political situations, as well as strong communities that are going to form a strong society.