“My perspective changed…” – Meet Caterina

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.

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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.

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“I am Moldovan but a piece of my personality is American…” – Meet Nadia

Meet Nadia, one of my wonderful language tutors. I usually see Nadia’s smiling face about once a week where I practice my Romanian and get help with any questions and the grammar issues I have. Nadia is 34 and lives here in Balti, she is originally from Soroca. She studied English Philology from the State University of Moldova, Chisinau.  Currently, she is an English teacher, and also helps students such as myself with Romanian as well. I have enjoyed getting to know Nadia over the past couple of months so I hope you enjoy getting to know her a bit and her experience with volunteers…

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Tell us a bit about yourself and your family:
My family is not big. We live in Balti. My husband’s name is Radu. He is a graphic designer. I have a son, Vladut. He is 6 years old. I have also a sister, Victoria. She lives in Chisinau, she plays the violin, and is very successful in this. I am proud about my family.

What do you like to do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?
I like dancing zumba, reading books, and of course spending time with my family.

Tell us about the first time you met a Peace Corps volunteer…
It was in 2008 when I became a language instructor at Peace Corps. I remember how nervous I was, struggling to understand what Americans say. Fortunately I felt comfortable very soon listening and speaking to them because they all were very nice and patient with me.

Has your perspective on Volunteering changed?
Yes it has. I began to appreciate a lot the people who decided to be volunteers, understand their values and try to introduce them into my own values, to do something good and valuable for somebody and enjoy their happiness.

Has your perspective about Americans changed?
I didn’t have anything to change, just strengthened my good opinion about them.

How have Peace Corps volunteers impacted your life?
The experience I had getting to know them is very precious for me. They taught me about their way of life, culture, values. I am Moldovan but a piece of my personality is American, because I tried to learn from them good things, what our people need to improve, I mean way of life or mentality, and I am glad that I began to think differently the things that helped my life be better.

If you could say one thing to all Peace Corps volunteers what would it be?
You do a great job, guys. Thank you all!

If you could say one thing to all Moldovans about volunteering what would it be?
Being a volunteer is important. It helps you get new experiences and make the lives of people better.

What are some of your hopes for Moldova’s future?
I hope one day it would be a country with much more opportunities for people to study, work, and have fun, so that nobody will have to work abroad and be away from his/her family.

“My perspective on Volunteering has changed…” – Meet Igor

This guy has me laughing pretty much every time I see him. Meet Igor, a smart and dedicated 19 year old who grew up in Balti, Moldova. He is currently in his first year of college studying marketing at a ASEM (Academy of Economics studies of Moldova) located in Chisinau. He’ll come and visit his family on the weekends so we get to see him sometimes when he is in town. I appreciate Igor’s willingness to learn new things and hearing his perspective on life. I have learned a lot from him and believe he has a bright future ahead…

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Paden, a Peace Corps volunteer with Igor at a fundraising event this past year.

What do you like to do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?
Being a college student and working doesn’t really give me much free time, but when I do have it, I use to catch up on my reading, spending time with friends, and volunteering when I get a chance.

Tell us about the first time you met a Peace Corps volunteer…
I first met a Peace Corp Volunteer in August 2013. A friend of mine was planning an event with a volunteer and asked me if I wanted to help. I agreed and we went for a meeting, and that’s the first time I ever met a PCV.

Has your perspective on Volunteering changed?
My perspective on Volunteering has changed, because before I thought that volunteering is just something you do once a week for couple hours, after working with Peace Corps Volunteers I realized that it’s an entire process, where you need to dedicate your time, energy and basically yourself to the cause.

How have Peace Corps volunteers impacted your life?
Where do I start? In the last couple years PCVs have completely changed my life. They made me aware of who I am, what I am capable of and more importantly, what my country is capable of.  They taught a lot of useful skills, convinced me to stay and help my country instead of moving away as I initially planned.  And thanks to them I have found my first job. The truth is that only couple years ago, I was just going through life without a purpose, of a plan, but now it’s different. I am not the person I was three years ago, and I am glad.

If you could say one thing to all Peace Corps volunteers what would it be?
What you’re doing is important, even if it doesn’t seem like that. Just keep in mind that you are making the world a better place.

Also… If someone gives you a choice: rachiu or wine, always go for the wine.

If you could say one thing to all Moldovans about volunteering what would it be?
Keep volunteering, because not only you are helping those in need, you are also helping yourself, by acquiring important life skills, and meeting a lot of new and interesting people.

What are some of your hopes for Moldova’s future?
My hopes for Moldova’s future? My only hope is that it reaches its potential, and becomes the country it could be, instead of the country it is right now.

“…because it does make a difference” – Meet Natasha

Natasha was one of the first few locals I had met when I made my visit to Balti during training. She met up with us during my tour of the city since she was best friends with one of my work partners. Aside from speaking excellent English, she welcomed me warmly and with lots of energy.

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Natasha is incredibly sweet and cares deeply for those she knows. I have enjoyed getting to know her over the past few months and seeing her step outside of her comfort zone. She is a hardworking 21 year old who has lived here in Balti, Moldova all her life.  She currently is the coordinator for “Salut, Balti”, which is a local volunteering initiative here in the city. I am so impressed with her creativity and attention to detail. I had her answer a few questions about her life and working with Peace Corps Volunteers. Take a moment, drink some tea as you read this and enjoy getting to know Natasha…

Tell us a bit about yourself…
“I was born and raised in Balti. In 2011/2012 I was an exchange student in USA, which greatly influenced me, helped me to become more open-minded and flexible regarding life around me, my decisions and my relations with other people. I love writing and English language and this is why I study these areas online now and  I’m going to pursue a degree in English and writing starting this fall. I love my family, airports, tea and desserts, I like the color yellow and enjoy reading. I love Moldova, and growing up I learn to appreciate my country more and more.”

What do you like to do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?
“I like spending time with my family and friends. As for a hobby, I like decorating and being crafty.”

Tell us about the first time you met a Peace Corps volunteer…
“I briefly saw Peace Corps volunteers in spring 2012, but back then I didn’t really know anything about them. A real meeting was in summer 2013, when my friend introduced me to a new Peace Corps volunteer in my town and since then Peace Corps volunteers have become a part of my life.”

Has your perspective on Volunteering changed?
“Yes, my perspectives did change since then. Before I was associating volunteering with States, but now I don’t connect it with any place, it’s just what you do no matter where you are.”

Has your perspective about Americans changed?
“My perspective about Americans didn’t really change, because I lived for almost a year in US beforehand. The Peace Corps volunteers that I know are not different from the  people I’ve met there.”

How have Peace Corps volunteers impacted your life?
“Peace Corps volunteers in my town helped me to continue working on myself, getting more and more out of my comfort zone. They helped me to find amazing volunteering opportunities. They keep developing my translation skills. Because of Peace Corps volunteers I have my job now and I also work with a Peace Corps volunteer. They are also some of the closest friends for me!”

If you could say one thing to all Peace Corps volunteers what would it be?
“Keep doing the great work, because it does make a difference.”

If you could say one thing to all Moldovans about volunteering what would it be?
“Be more open to a change.”

What are some of your hopes for Moldova’s future?
“My hopes for Moldova: better economy, stability with Transnistrian part of Moldova, and a changed mentality.”