{Photo Friday}: Coding Concentration

Last week I had the opportunity to facilitate an Hour of Code event in my community. After the success of Code Week, an instructor at the University wanted to keep doing things like this and asked if we could coordinate an Hour of Code event. I happily agreed as I love this kind of stuff and think it’s really important for anybody, but particularly youth to learn at least the basics of coding and how it works.

Last year I had done this at the local library here, but this year we organized it at a local school where other schools were invited to join. About 60 people (students and teachers) showed up! It was quite impressive!

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Students working in teams on their laptops while going through the Hour of Code exercises. These groups were loving it!
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More coding fun during #codeweek in Moldova

Europe Code week was this past week starting on October 10 and ending today, October 18. Countries all over Europe hosted events during this period of time to introduce coding by engaging people in learning something new and exploring how code works.

I had learned about Code Week during the Girls Go IT camp this summer and thought it could be something we could do in Balti, the city I live & serve in (which happens to be the 2nd largest city in Moldova). After sharing it with a professor at the University here in Balti, we worked on the details, logistics, and he found the contacts to present 5 different topics for code week. (The surprise was on me when I discovered I was one of them!)

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I shared the first session about basic HTML to a room of 40 students (and we only had 30 computers).

So why code week? Why learn to code? As quoted from the Europe Code Week website:

“Today we live in a world that has been affected by rapid advances in technology. The way we work, communicate, shop and think has changed dramatically. In order to cope with these rapid changes and to make sense of the world around us, we need to not only develop our understanding of how technology works, but also develop skills and capabilities, that will help us to adapt to living in this new era.

Learning to code helps us to make sense of how things work, explore ideas and make things, for both work and play. What’s more it helps us to unleash our creativity and work collaboratively with wonderful people both near us and all over the world.”

Students helping one another during one of the code week sessions.
Students helping one another during one of the code week sessions.

I was impressed. The week went incredibly well, way beyond my expectations. Even though all of the presentations were in Russian (except for mine) I can say I learned a few new things. Those who attended were both high school and University students and they really enjoyed it. Many of them came each day to continue to learn. The topics that were covered at the Balti code week location were HTML, CSS, Angular JS, OLE Technology, and Git. Some of the students shared that they would like to continue to do more sessions like this in the future. So, we shall see what is possible!

“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.

Saturday Mornings are Best for Taking Photos

Saturday mornings are best for taking photos… especially when you get to share the morning with a group of enthusiastic youth who also want to learn more about photography.

Photography is one of my favorite things and I recently met some youth at a local NGO who want to learn more about photography. We’ve arranged to start a photo club and try to meet about every other week on Saturday mornings. We have met twice so far and I try to cover basic photo composition since most of them are taking photos with point and shoot cameras and their cell phones.

Some of the youth after one of our photo sessions and sharing what they had taken photos of with one another.
Some of the youth after one of our photo sessions and sharing what they had taken photos of with one another.

The one thing that has been the most challenging for me is that the majority of the youth speak Russian. I have been learning Romanian, so I do all the photo workshops in English with the help of a translator. This makes it difficult to try to carry a conversation with the youth along with my limited Romanian and the very few words I know in Russian. Thankfully there is one youth who speaks English pretty well who has been helping all of us understand one another.

This has become one of my most favorite things so far that I have been involved in, even with it’s challenges. I have enjoyed getting to know the youth who are interested in learning more about photography and that we get to all go out into the city and practice taking photos.

The first meeting we discuss the importance of perspective — in how we can all be looking at the same exact thing, but depending on WHERE we are looking at it from, we may be seeing a different aspect of it. And so we went out and practiced taking photos of some objects and changing our view and perspective on the object to see how the composition of the photograph changed… as well as our own perspective of the actual object.

Example… plant below is same exact plant, but photo taken from above and from below looking at. Same thing, but two very different photos.

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I even incorporated how this also applies to life… we can all be facing a similar situation, but we all may be seeing things from a different perspective in life depending on our own personal and past experiences. A great reminder to be reminded of daily…

I loved seeing them all out and about taking photos and sharing with one another what they were finding or how they were seeing things…

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The second session we talked about some tips and tricks in photo composition… but also to remember that “photography is an art, not a science” so these are some loose “rules” but some things to keep in mind. The video below was great in helping to explain this in a creative and more visual way.

Then we ventured out for about 2 hours into the city to practice what we had learned…

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But first we had to start out our morning with some fun with some conversation candy hearts that my mom had sent in her latest package. They had never had candy like this before and we had some good laughs at some of the sayings on them and what they meant.

These are some of the photos I took from that day as we walked around keeping our eyes open for photo opps. I think my favorite moment from that day was when someone told me they didn’t think Balti was a good place to take photos because they didn’t think it was very interesting. I challenged them to see what they could find putting on a new lens and perspective as they view their city and maybe they’d be surprised.

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And these photos below are some of the ones that the students took that day — I have enjoyed seeing them try new things with taking photos and seeing their city in a different way – through the photo lens.

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I look forward to the next time we meet and go out to explore with our cameras.