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.

Advertisements

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.

P1020631
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.

GirlsinthePower

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!

IMG_5681
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.

IMG_3255

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.

withphone

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.

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.

sisters

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.

“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.

IMG_9222

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.

“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…

DSC_0206

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.