Inspired by Girls in Technovation Challenge

I continue to be inspired young high school girls during my Peace Corps service.

When I think back to when I was 14 or 15, I was definitely not as motivated or driven as many of the the young ladies I met last weekend. On Sunday, April 24 we hosted a big Technovation Challenge Moldova regional event where teams from all over the country came together to share their projects on ways to solve problems in their community through a cell phone app and business plan they created.

DSC_0223
Team App Queens from Chisinau and Ungheni with their amazing mentors.

We had 9 teams from Moldova successfully submit projects and 8 teams presented their projects at the official regional pitch event where local teams competed for the opportunity to move to the semi-final round of the global competition. This is the 3rd year that Moldova has participated and each year the interest continues to grow.

DinuBubulici photo-6892

Teams shared their projects and mobile apps in approaching solutions to issues in their communities such as tourism, reducing plastic bag use, teen suicide, corruption, and migrant workers.

We had a wonderfully diverse panel of judges who volunteered their time to come and learn about all these projects and to determine the winning semi-finalist Moldovan team. All of the girls were acknowledged for successfully submitting their projects with fancy Technovation certificates. Honorable mention, second place was awarded to team “Do it for Bunica” who has recently been making waves with their business idea in Moldova.

DSC_0303
Steve, fellow Peace Corps Volunteer with his girls from team “Do it For Bunica” from Orhei.

The “Do it for Bunica” team created an app that offers an online platform for migrant workers from Moldova to hire local youth helpers to assist their elderly parents with household chores. Recently they had also gone through another competition, Diamond Challenge where they made it to the finals and traveled to Delaware. They pitched their business idea and were awarded 1st prize and brought home $10,000 to help make the business idea happen!

Team HAI, composed of three high school girls from the capital city of Chisinau were awarded 1st place and a spot in the semi-final round of the Technovation Challenge. Their app, “Handmade Goods Moldova” is a shopping app, designed for social centers in Moldova to sell handmade goods produced by disabled persons. Socially-minded shoppers are able to browse photos of the products and proceed to buy them through the app.

13077273_885784341550346_1941918431_n
Team App Queens from Chisinau and Ungheni with their amazing mentors.

As a surprise, we announced to them at the event that they will have the opportunity to travel to San Francisco to attend the Technovation World Pitch Summit in July! Currently we are in the crowdfunding phase of reaching our goal to raise funds so we can send the girls along with their mentor so they can attend workshops, showcase their project, network with other girls around the world and tour tech businesses in Silicon Valley. This is an incredible opportunity for these girls, who for some of them, this was their 2nd and 3rd time competing in this challenge.

Help make this a reality for these girls! Click on the campaign link below to support these girls. A number of fun perks are available for supporters. Plus, each dollar given will be matched thanks to our partner sponsors: Tekwill, Sun Communications, and Girls Go IT!

https://www.indiegogo.com/project/send-technovation-moldova-team-to-san-francisco/embedded/9945721

DSC_0331
I’m sharing with the girls the surprise that they’ll be traveling to San Francisco for the World Pitch Summit as attendees.

The more I continue to work with these girls and their mentors and see the impact it has not only on them as individuals but also in their communities, the more I am inspired to keep learning and encouraging others to do the same.

The journey has just begun, these girls will make a greater impact on those around them!

Looking Back During Close of Service Conference

It’s been a little quiet on my blog lately, but that’s been because there hasn’t been much time to reflect and share about all the great things going on recently. There also hasn’t been much time for sleeping for me either, and add to that a not so great aspect of Peace Corps service: getting sick with giardia (again). But besides that part, it’s been a fun but crazy busy time.

Recently our M29 group of volunteers that I arrived with in 2014 all gathered together for our Close of Service (COS) Conference. We spent 3 days together learning about all the paperwork that needs to be filled out over the next couple of weeks/months. In addition to that, we shared stories of “impact” from these past 2 years and also some of our embarrassing stories as well — which were mostly filled with funny and cringe-worthy bathroom stories (not a surprise).

image_1
Steve sharing about his moment of impact from his latest adventure in being able to take a group of youth he had been working with to a competition in the US.
image_2
Terry put on her super-hero cape and had us all laughing as her back-up dancers joined in a PCV song remix.

There were questions and statements posted around the room where we shared various responses to them on the infamous flip chart paper (we will miss it after we leave, or maybe not).

All in all, it was a great time to see everyone and spend time to catch up, play, and reflect. I am going to miss this crew, it’s been a wild ride and we’ve learned a lot — from one another and within our communities. Hooray for COD’s! (Volunteers in the Community & Organizational Development Program)

13040864_10154281047506062_4193116267590990883_o
M29 COD Peace Corps Volunteers! 

We laughed and cried. Played games and chatted for hours. Unfortunately, I ended up working a lot during our breaks and free time due to a big event that was coming up for Technovation Challenge, which I’ll share more another time. The deadline for team submissions fell right in the middle of our conference so my friend, Olivia and I stayed up until the deadline to help teams who were trying to submit their projects up to the last minute. Since the deadline was at 5 pm PT that meant we were up past 3 am!

13082709_10156875154465055_8006516718180741346_n
Olivia and I at 3:00 AM after teams submitted their projects. 

I am going to miss this M29 crew. We all have one thing in common and that is that we came to Moldova and showed up. We may never know the impact we have had on the communities and people we met, but one thing for sure is that we are all leaving having been impacted by the people and communities we shared the past 2 years with.

13048031_10108158602227554_8468941731402711378_o
The whole M29 Peace Corps Volunteer Group!

Farewell to February & March

Time flies when you’re having fun. February and March flew by quickly. I’m still wondering what happened to winter but am grateful for the change to blue skies.

In February I hung out with some amazing youth as we worked on various projects.

I went on a random adventure and visited an exotic farm on Valentine’s day with my friend and her family… and we got to meet some moody, muddy ostriches. (Who knew there were ostriches in Moldova?!)

IMG_5073
The ostriches of Moldova. 

Along with a local teacher we hosted a location to take part in the “Write On Competition” at a local school. It was optional to take part in this creative writing competition, as you can see in the photo all girls showed up for this opportunity.

IMG_5079
The students practicing their creative writing skills during the write on competition. 

Also, in February I made a quick trip to Istanbul, Turkey to visit my friend Shelby as she was meeting all of her family there for a family vacay. How could I pass up the opportunity to see her when she was a 1-hour flight away?! It was so fun to see her and get to meet her family and to explore Istanbul together.

DSC_0737
With Shelby as the Blue Mosque sits behind us. 

Then before I knew it, March quickly approached and signs of spring were appearing everywhere along with gifts of martisor. Early on in March a few of us volunteers made the quick trip to fellow volunteer’s village that is right outside of our city to make bread and placinta for the day. We had a wonderful time getting to know her community and her amazing partner teacher she works with as they showed us how to make these delicious filled pastries using a brick oven in her home.

Between February 28 – March 5 we celebrated Peace Corps week. A few of us volunteers in Balti met with a number of students from the local University and talked about our experiences as volunteers. It was fun to meet them all and hear their questions. My favorite question one of the students asked was “If you could describe your experience in one word, what would it be?” My response (which I never did get to share with the group) would be “Adventura!”. Every day holds some sort of random grand adventure.

10415591_1082748341777316_10691712176454387_n

We celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8, while each week I met with two different teams of girls in Balti who are preparing their projects for Technovation Challenge.

IMG_5270
Girls from one of the teams in Balti working on their project. 

It’s been an amazing journey over these past 22 months (!) and sometimes I still can’t believe this is my reality. Over 2 years ago I had made the “Peace Corps leap”and decided to leave my comforts of “home”, my friends, my family, and a job I enjoyed so that I could do something that challenges me daily. But… if you haven’t noticed through my blog writings… I love it. Peace Corps’ slogan of “The toughest job you’ll ever love” is so true.

12779188_10209109729280791_6271991777528271564_o
Celebrating Leap Day on February 29 with some awesome local youth.

Welcome to the little corner of my life where I get to hang out with amazing youth and teach them how to jump for photos, visit exotic farms to see ostriches, and travel to new places to meet friends from home. Each day I am grateful for the new day and the adventures that each one unfolds.

 

{Photo Friday}: Let’s Eat Mamaliga

It’s time to share about this popular traditional dish: Mamaliga! The yellow sticky porridge-like-bread is made from yellow cornmeal and served with meat (we usually eat it with pork), scrambled eggs, sour cream, and brinza (homemade cheese).

As noted by Wikipedia, it is a traditional dish found in Romania, Moldova, and Western Ukraine. “Historically a peasant food, it was often used as a substitute for bread or even as a staple food in the poor rural areas. However, in the last decades it has emerged as an upscale dish available in the finest restaurants.”

I have been told many times by my host family that it is often eaten with your hands, as I try to use a fork to mix it all up and properly distribute the mamaliga with the other ingredients.

photo
My host mom prepared mamaliga to eat this past week — so good!

Thank You! Mulțumesc mult!

I had previously shared last summer about a project I was working with my primary organization on in two rural villages in the northern part of Moldova. I am happy to share that this project has been successfully completed many thanks to a Let Girls Learn grant, local contributions both financial and in-kind, and many generous people from home.

Before-After.jpg

Fourteen 3-part beds making a total of 42 beds were purchased and delivered to two rural kindergartens in the northern part of Moldova. In addition to the beds, chairs were also purchased for these rural kindergartens with the remaining funds. As a result of this project, a wonderful local person saw the needs of these kindergartens within these communities and is personally working on purchasing tables for the kindergartens as well. By acquiring this furniture for these kindergartens, this not only impacts the early-education and care for young children ages 2-7 but also the families as well. By providing furniture this helps to keep the doors open for these local community kindergartens and allows families to send their children here during the day. This provides an opportunity for the family members to work during that time, especially for the mothers. In addition to this, the kindergartens are now able to have more children attend since they have the resources to support and care for more children and provide an early start to their education.

DSC_0871

Also as a result of this project, mothers and grandmothers had the opportunity to discuss with the local village doctor and among themselves on ways to keep their children healthy and in kindergarten, especially during the winter months. An activity was also coordinated and facilitated by a local woman who works in the IT-professional field in Moldova. This activity focused on gender-equality and involved both mothers and children from the kindergarten.

DSC_0832

The school director, teachers, children, and their families are all very happy with the outcome of this project. They are now able to attend a full day of kindergarten, nap comfortably in a warm bed, and there is no need to fight over the limited number of chairs anymore. Thank you on behalf of these two communities for making this a possibility in Moldova!

DSC_0877

Enjoy a little video of some follow up interviews that had been done after the project was completed.

{Photo Friday}: Albastru Doors

I have this strange fascination with taking photos of doors. It doesn’t matter where I am, I continue to be drawn to them. Especially when they are particular colors of albastru, which means “blue” in Romanian. I stumbled upon this unique set of doors during a walk through a nearby village. I can only imagine the history these doors have experienced and most likely they were originally made by hand. I think they’re beautiful.

doorsofmoldova
A set of blue doors found in the village of Corlateni during a spring-time walk.

{Photo Friday}: My Valentine’s Day 2016

This past Valentine’s day I found myself on a random quick trip to visit some exotic animals. This is where I met these ostriches. This wins the most random Valentine’s day ever. Who knew there were ostriches in Moldova?! I learn something new… everyday. I love this place.

IMG_5073.JPG
The ostriches of Moldova.