Meet Livia: “I learned that no matter who you are…you can still make an impact.”

1. What was your most favorite part(s) about your participation in the Technovation World Pitch Summit?The best part of it was of course the people, especially the girls like us that came to this summit to show their solutions for the problems they face in their communities. Having the opportunity to meet girls younger than me that already achieved so much, motivated me to continue to persevere in all the aspects of my life.

 

2. What did you think of San Francisco?

San Francisco is an amazing city and having the opportunity to combine the participation in Technovation Summit with sightseeing was incredible.

 

a) What was your favorite part of the city?

Well, several things that made me love San Francisco were the hills and how they combined perfectly with the architecture of the city making it from this point of view unique. The second thing I admired was the Golden Gate Park, considered a huge natural reservation it manages to create a perfect balance between new and old, West and East in such way being considered one of the most beautiful parks in the world. And the last but not the least is the ocean, even if the weather wasn’t one of the best we still had a great time collecting shells and making pictures.

 

3. What did you learn from this experience?

I learned that no matter who you are, teenager or senior, woman or man, a person with experience or not you can still make an impact. All you need to do for this is to have a little self-confidence and a lot of dedication, and by this I mean I a lot of hard work.

 

4. What is something you will take from this experience for your future?

One big lesson I’ve learned is to stay open to new possibilities and opportunities, and when sometimes it seems like all the doors are closed, for sure somewhere there is a window. This lesson I plan to apply in my future and of course in the development of our application.

 

5. Now what?

Now, as we received some feedback on our idea at the summit, we plan to implement some changes in the app, as well as in the business plan. Our aim in doing this is to make our social business as suitable as possible for our country and also or enlarging our market.

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Meet Diana: “The most important lesson was to keep everything simple…”

1. What was your most favorite part(s) about your participation in the Technovation World Pitch Summit?

I really liked each day of this wonderful experience.

One of my most favorite parts was listening to great people sharing their experience, who created amazing things and who believe in a better world. They were not afraid to build great companies, products that millions of people use today, things that make our lives easier.

I met participants from another parts of the world, who were motivated to create an app to solve a problem in their community. Our culture might be different, but we all have the same motivation – to do something to make our world better.

2. What did you think of San Francisco?

I liked the diversity of the city – in one place you can find skyscrapers, small houses, mountains, parks, lakes, and a lot of bridges. Although people are of different nationalities, or might have different native languages, they are all living together in the same city, interacting with each other and respecting each other.

a. What was your favorite part of the city?

I liked almost everything about the city – the skyscrapers, the small colorful houses, and the ocean view. My favorite street was the crooked Lombard Street, which was a challenge for us to climb, but we did it!

3. What did you learn from this experience?

The most important lesson was to keep everything simple: to be simple, not to complicate things as we sometimes tend to. If there is something you really want to do or have, for example you notice an app that is missing in our world – just start and create it! Don’t complain about what could go wrong and all the reasons why it shouldn’t work, but start building it. And it’s not just about the apps, it’s about everything – would you like to use a product that doesn’t exist yet – create it!

There are also some lessons I learned from the inspiring speech of the CEO of Dropbox, Drew Houston and would like to share:

“Find what you enjoy”

“Learn to work hard”

“Join a startup”

“To learn something it takes a while”

And finally, “Life is a journey”, learn to enjoy it.

4. What is something you will take from this experience for your future?

There is a quote that I heard at Technovation Challenge and inspired me a lot: “Explorers make their own map”. Nowadays there are a lot of opportunities – if you have a computer and connection to Internet, with a simple search you can find a lot of them, but what’s important is to be motivated to search for them, set your goals and work hard to achieve them.

5. Now what?

The Technovation Challenge World Pitch Summit was a very inspirational experience. I will share this experience with other participants, girls like me and anyone interested in listening.

Now I am involved in the GirlsGoIT program, which is also an initiative to support girls in learning IT and Technology. For the next year I plan to contribute to these two initiatives, GirlsGoIT and Technovation, and pass to other people this wonderful experience from the Technovation World Pitch Summit.

6. Have more to share? Tell us more…

Technovation Challenge was a great opportunity for me. An initiative that couldn’t be possible without people who were involved, who organized, supported and believed in it.

I want to say thank you to everyone making it possible to happen, and to encourage other girls to participate, because it will be a very valuable experience.

Meet Team “Girls in the Power”

I’ve had the great opportunity to directly work with 2-3 Technovation Challenge teams over the past 2 years during my Peace Corps service. This past year I worked with the team, “Girls in the Power” from Balti composed of 4 high school girls and an amazing computer teacher from their school.

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Team “Girls in the Power”: Valeria, Patrisia, Mrs. Inna, Catalina, myself, and Iulia

For most of the girls who were between 14-16 years old, this was their first time doing anything like this and working together as a team. Their computer teacher, Mrs. Inna has been teaching for a total of 10 years in informatics and this was also her first time to experience a program like this as well.

Technovation Challenge is the largest and longest-running tech competition for girls. In Moldova this is the 3rd year it has been happening here. For 12-weeks, girls ages 10-18 go through a curriculum with a mentor or coach. They learn how to identify a problem in their community and figure out a solution by creating a business plan and mobile app. Plus, all of this is done in English! An incredible challenge since for many of them all of these things are new to them.

The girls from “Girls in the Power” created a business plan and designed an app called ‘Emotional Test’ to address some of the problems teenagers face, such as difficult communication with adults, misunderstandings with their peers, dependence from the virtual world, desires to be confirmed by society and lack of trust, etc. Teen suicide is on the rise in Moldova, and girls are even more affected than boys. The app they created proposed a test to identify one’s emotional state and offers advice based on the results.

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I met with the girls and Mrs. Inna a few weeks after this year’s program and local competition. We celebrated the end of the school year and all that they had learned and accomplished since we first met in January.

I asked them a few questions as we reflected over the past couple of months during the Technovation Challenge program.

Q: What did you learn from Technovation? 

“I learned how to work in a team, to be more careful about small details, and patience.”  – Catalina

“I learned interesting information from the psychologist we worked with. Also I learned how to make a business plan and how to make it interesting with info-graphics.” – Patrisia

“I learned about how to use a new program like AppInventor.” – Mrs. Inna

Q: What was the most challenging part? 

“The most challenging part was working in a group and trying to implement the database into our app.” – Iulia 

“Working in English was really challenging, but it helped us!” – Valeria & Patrisia

“It was challenging to prepare our presentation in English.” – Patrisia & Catalina

To note: For most of these girls they have never before presented in front of a large group of people nor have they done so in English. 

Q: What was fun about Technovation? 

“To immediately see the end result of making an app using AppInventor and the end result of everything when it all came together.” – Catalina

“To be able to see the results immediately after the girls did something in their project.” – Mrs. Inna

Q: Tell me something interesting or funny about when you were working on your project together…

“I learned how important it is to make sure you save your work. One day I was working on our app in the AppInventor program and we lost all the information I had just done. I had to rebuild it all over again. It was a hard lesson to learn.” – Catalina

“We had fun, we took time to dance together during our breaks (laughter).” – All

“It was a great experience and very interesting to go to the Moldova ICT Summit to learn about ICT in education in Moldova and to share about our experience.” – All 

Q: What do you hope to do now after going through this experience?

“To take time to keep learning new things.” – Patrisia, Catalina

“We want to go to the Girls Go IT camp and to keep learning!” – All 


They created a pitch video and demo video for their project…

Pitch Video:

Demo Video:

It has been a joy to get to know these girls and Mrs. Inna during the Technovation Challenge program this year. For me, I watched their confidence soar as they learned new things together. My favorite moments were when they would exclaim out loud their excitement when accomplishing something new or seeing the results of their work immediately. To me, that’s what this program is all about in how these girls are gaining the confidence and interest in considering the field of technology whether it be on the front end with design or as a computer programmer. I look forward to seeing what each of these them does and where they go in the future! Bravo fete! Keep going!

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All of us together at the Moldova ICT Summit.

“Volunteers are special people. They are like books.”

Meet Valeria. She’s 16 and attends a local high school here in Balti where her favorite subject in school is Romanian literature. I met Valeria through Facebook; she messaged me one day asking to meet so she could practice speaking English. We get together when we can, which lately has been very seldom. I have been impressed with Valeria’s drive and passion for her studies and goals in life. Take a moment and get to know one of the youth I have gotten to know during my short time here in Moldova.

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Tell us a bit about yourself…
I am a perseverant person, who fights for her goals. I am creative and I like dancing, music and literature. I want to study foreign languages, because it can give me the opportunity to discover this world and to develop my experience in communication and human relationships.

What do you like to do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?
Now, I have not so much free time. In my free time, I prefer to practice sport and to watch different documentary movies. My hobby is fitness. I practiced dancing and singing last year, but now I do not have this possibility, because I am involved in Access Program, a Leadership Program and Technovation Challenge.

Tell us about the first time you met a Peace Corps volunteer…
When I had the first meeting with Sara, I was impressed by her receptivity and friendly attitude. Sincerely, I expected a meeting with a friendly person, but Sara was really lightful and very sociable with me. I had many problems with my English, but Sara tried to talk with me in Romanian and this act encouraged me.

Has your perspective on volunteering changed?
I think that, volunteering is a great opportunity to change life in a great way. It has a beneficial effect for society and for personal development.

How have Peace Corps volunteers impacted your life?
Peace Corps volunteers are some people, who will help you every time and who work to develop our society. Personally, volunteers are special people. They are like books. They inspire, encourage and help to improve yourself. Also, they are very interesting. Every volunteer has his experience and his life rules and they share his experience with us. I am thankful for every volunteer, because everybody gave me a bit of confidence, wisdom and made me to believe in my personal realizations.

What are some of your hopes for your future?
Now, I have a big dream concerning to my future job and I want to achieve this one. I will work very hard to be an example and a real personality.

 

“I like to volunteer and meet new people…” – Meet Cătălina

I’d like for you to meet Cătălina, an active 16 year old from Bălți, Moldova.  I met Cătătlina through another Peace Corps volunteer and she was part of my Technovation Challenge team this past spring. I continue to be amazed and impressed with Cătălina’s attitude and perspective on life and desire to learn and grow. She’s a smart, creative, and positive youth that will make a difference no matter where she goes or what she does in life. This upcoming fall she’ll be attending high school in Romania for the next 4 years, so sadly I won’t get to see her as much anymore. It’s a great opportunity and I’m excited for her as she embarks on this new adventure.

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Tell us a bit about yourself…
I am an ordinary 16 years old girl who loves sports and art, especially music. I can play guitar, the piano and a little bit drums. Also, I like to volunteer and meet new people or help those who are in need.

What do you like to do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?
In my free time I play my guitar or volunteer. Music and basketball are my hobbies.

Tell us about the first time you met a Peace Corps volunteer…
A year and a half ago I met for the first time Peace Corps Volunteers. I met them during a training and I wanted to learn more about who they are and what are they were doing here in Moldova, so I tried to communicate as much as possible with them.

Has your perspective on Volunteering changed?
I learned about Volunteering while I was talking to Peace Corps Volunteers. I liked what was it about so I decided to try to volunteer and I loved it.

Has your perspective about Americans changed?
I was always convinced that every single person on the earth is special and unique and Americans were there as a proof. I liked to learn more about their traditions and culture. They are amazing people.

How have Peace Corps volunteers impacted your life?
Peace Corps volunteers introduced me to the world of volunteering and I loved and appreciated what they were doing, so I am thankful I met them and that they became my friends.

If you could say one thing to all Peace Corps volunteers what would it be?
If I could say one thing to all Peace Corps volunteers, it would be a HUUUUGE “THANK YOU !“

If you could say one thing to all Moldovans about volunteering what would it be?
If I could say one thing to all Moldovans about volunteering, it would be “Do It !“

What are some of your hopes for Moldova’s future?
I hope that Moldova will prosper with a little help from youth who are involved in different projects and volunteers, and from our wonderful Peace Corps Volunteers.

“I desire for my daughter to have a better learning environment…”

As a Community & Organizational Development Advisor, I spend my of my time working with my primary organization. This organization focuses on development work in the northern part of Moldova. They help farmers through field school training seminars and exchange programs. They also help schools and communities rehabilitate old buildings through infrastructure reconstruction.

A few months ago I had learned about two communities my organization had worked with who have been trying to keep their kindergartens open. They both need assistance with replacing the old beds, tables, and chairs. These schools have been slowly trying to fix the infrastructure of the buildings from the roof, installing new windows and doors, bringing water into the school and installing toilets and sinks. There are more children in these communities than there are available spaces in the kindergarten, especially due to the limited number of resources available.

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Beds from one village that the young kids use for nap-time which have been around for a very long time. There aren’t enough beds to sleep all the kids, so at times they will put two kids in one bed which is not healthy or comfortable for the kids.

I met with one young mother to talk with her about the project to learn more about the issues and how it would impact her family. Meet Ana, a 31 year old mother who has lived in the same village all her life. She has one daughter, Nastea who is 4 years old. Her husband is not employed, and is trying to find work abroad to provide for their family. When Ana goes to work at the mayors office, she takes her daughter to the kindergarten which allows her the opportunity to be able to work and provide the only income for their family at this time.

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Ana with her daughter, Nastea.

The kindergarten is the only kindergarten in this village of about 900 people. It has 2 classrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, a space for children to sleep, and an entryway. The kindergarten has old beds, tables, and chairs that have gone through at least 3 generations in Ana’s family. At this time there are about 50 children in this village, but the kindergarten can only accommodate about 20-25 children, and that is even putting 2 children in one bed during their nap time.

Parents have been helping with what they can, repairing furniture with the resources and skills they have but they don’t have the money to purchase new furniture and have reached the point that some items are beyond repairs. The budget is small for the kindergarten and it cannot afford buy these things.

“I desire for my daughter to have a better learning environment where she can nap comfortably, learn, and play.”

Ana knows the outcome of this project would make the learning environment for the kids more comfortable and attractive having new beds and they hope to be able to find a way to add chairs and tables to the school in the future.

When asked how this would impact Ana’s family she told us how happy they would be if they wouldn’t have to worry so much about how her daughter is doing in school knowing that her learning environment was improving which would improve her education and willingness to be there and learn. She also explained how it would be a positive thing for the community and the families that send their children there and would enable the kindergarten to have more children attend and keep it operating.

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Some of the children from the other kindergarten where they don’t have any beds and very limited tables and chairs.

This project would not only benefit the children from these communities, but would also benefit their young mothers. Enabling the kindergarten to open up more spots in the school would allow more mothers to reintegrate into the labor force. We are working on various health trainings and gender-related activities for the community once the beds are installed.

We had submitted this project for a Peace Corps grant and we recently found out that part of the funding has been awarded to this project. We still need to raise funds for part of it in order for it to begin. You can read more about this project on the Peace Corps website HERE. Would you consider giving $5, $10, or $25 toward this project? That amount of money can go a long way here in Moldova.

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Click on the image above to read more about the project and how you too can help!

Meet Zina and Maria – My Host-Sisters from Pre-Service Training

When I first moved to Moldova over a year ago I had the privilege of living with an amazing host family and was immediately taken in by 2 younger host sisters. They were incredibly kind and patient with me and for that I am so grateful. We bonded over animated movies like my favorites “Despicable Me” and I got to know about many others that I had never heard before. (For example, if you haven’t watched “Big Hero 6” yet, you should.)  This past year has gone too fast and I haven’t not gotten to visit them enough as I would like. Meet Zina and Maria, two incredibly smart and beautiful young girls from Moldova.

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Zina is 20 and is studying at Medical University in the Faculty of Dentistry in Chisinau. Meanwhile, Maria remains at home while she attends school in her village. Zina spends her free time studying so she can be a good doctor (I can definitely say this is true – she is a good student and studies A LOT). Maria likes to learn, when she’s not watching films (documentaries and animated movies) she is reading or studying. She is interested in science, medicine, and history and has hopes to be a surgeon or doctor some day.

What do you like to do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?

Maria: I read a lot, I like to embroider, and I have a lot of hobbies that include handmade things.

Zina: Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of free time, but when I am on vacation, I like playing with my sister, helping my mom in the garden, and going to the movies or theatre.

Tell us about the first time you met a Peace Corps volunteer…

Maria: The first time I met a Peace Corp volunteer was the summer of 2014, when we had a Peace Corp volunteer staying with us at home.

Zina: The first time I met a Peace Corps volunteer was a year ago. It was a great pleasure for me to meet an American citizen and to discover that she is a nice, good girl. It was a nice summer, because I improved my English skills, and, in the same time I was happy to discover a new, interesting person.

Has your perspective on Volunteering changed?

Maria: Yes, it changed a lot. Now I know what volunteers do, and now I have an open mind and soul for people  who work without money.

Zina: My perspective on volunteering is good, I think they do a good work in our country and we should help them, even with a place to stay and sleep.

Has your perspective about Americans changed?

Maria: No, I always thought that Americans are good people and I still think this.

Zina: Their perspectives are very good, too, because they have great ideas that can help in development of our country.

How have Peace Corps volunteers impacted your life?

Maria: Peace Corps volunteers changed my life, now I want to be involved in more of American projects, and Peace Corps volunteers helped me in  school and developed my English.

Zina: Peace Corps Volunteers impacted me in a good way my life, because it was a new and interesting experience in my life, which I want to repeat.

If you could say one thing to all Peace Corps volunteers what would it be?

Maria: Good Luck!

Zina: Good Luck, guys!!!

If you could say one thing to all Moldovans about volunteering what would it be?

Maria: Americans help develop Moldova, and they make good things here.

Zina: Don’t be afraid, let’s help them!

What are some of your hopes for Moldova’s future?

Maria: I hope that in Moldova we had the same schools and teachers like in America.

Zina: I want to live in a developed country, where I can develop my personality. I want to work there, and my work to be remembered.