Tag Archives: Ialoveni

Grant Fishing

Did Confucius ever submit a grant proposal?

IMG_1548Some accounts say he wrote the famous aphorism: Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

If he were living in today’s world, though, Confucius might have said: Give money to people and you help them for a short time. Teach them to write grants and they can keep going for years. (Or something like that.)

Grant writing has become an essential skill for public institutions and nonprofit organizations here in Moldova. IMG_1550With salaries and budgets that are tiny by American standards, they look to external sources for additional support, especially for projects. Potential funders range from USAID and other agencies affiliated with foreign governments to international NGOs, local embassies and others. Civic.md compiles many of their initiatives.

On Monday evening, our Ialoveni library learned its robotics team was among the winners in the latest round of a small grant competition for local youth that also provides valuable experience for the young reviewers. The Ialoveni team will  receive 5,500 lei, or a bit more than $330, to buy the supplies it needs to continue participating in national robotics competitions and perhaps to also organize a small local competition.


My library partner, Lidia Rusu, in the white sweater below, has gained a lot of experience writing grants over the past several years. She’s also received training from Novateca on other forms of fund-raising and advocacy, doing so well that Novateca recruited her to train librarians elsewhere. I was impressed as she worked with several boys on our robotics team to prepare this latest proposal. We discussed it but they did almost all of the work themselves, including the budget and narrative sections. They also presented it effectively to the review committee you see here at Ialoveni’s Consiliul Raional, or county government.


The new grant isn’t a lot of money, but it’s enough to keep the library’s robotics program moving forward. Equally important, both Lidia and the boys honed their grant preparation skills and received positive feedback that will encourage them to pursue more grants in the future. Next time they may reel in some bigger fish.



Costume Party (Video)

On Friday, the U.S. ambassador and other guests celebrated the new costumes Champa and her Ialoveni school partners created over the past several months — a colorful and emotional day we will never forget. This video is also on YouTube.


Money Transfers

Every picture tells a story. Can you guess what this one is telling you?


As you can see, it shows two shops, which are next to the traffic circle in Ialoveni, where Champa and I are serving as Peace Corps Volunteers. The yellow sign with the numbers showsIMG_1048 the latest exchange rates for the Moldovan leu relative to the U.S. dollar, the Euro, the Russian ruble and other currencies. The dollar has now slipped well below 17, continuing a slow descent I’ve discussed previously.

But something else is going on here, too. Look more carefully above the open door of the shop on the left. There’s a blue sign saying “Lucru legal în Europa!” In Romanian, that means “Work legally in Europe!”

IMG_1041It’s no coincidence this sign is adjacent to one showing exchange rates. In fact, it’s key to understanding the deeper meaning of the photo. It’s like the MoneyGram sign across the street, which says “transfer de bani,” or money transfer, or the Western Union sign up the block.

Everywhere you look in Moldova, banks and shops offer to transfer and exchange money. They are so ubiquitous, in fact, that you barely notice them after awhile, just like the fast food joints that cover our landscape back home.


In the above photo in Moldova’s capital, Chișinău, there’s not only the shop with the red “Schimb Valutar” and “Exchange” signs but another one further up the block. Look carefully; it’s there. There are even more shops and signs as you get closer to places with lots of travelers, like the central bus station.

Moldova gets few foreign tourists, so the shops aren’t looking primarily to attract them. Nor are there many Moldovan tourists looking to buy Euros or dollars before heading on vacations in the other direction.


No, all of this is a reminder of how many Moldovans have left their homeland to work abroad — especially in Western Europe but also in Russia and other eastern countries, as well as in the United States, Israel and elsewhere. As I’ve described previously, many of them must leave behind spouses and children, a story we hear again and again when we talk with our Moldovan friends.

When these foreign workers come home to visit, they often bring much of their earnings with them, or they may send money home with a trusted friend. Many also rely on banks and money transfer companies, comparing the fees, exchange rates and service to get the best deal.

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India and China, with their huge populations, are the world’s top “remittance-receiving” countries in overall dollars, followed by Philippines and Mexico. When calculated on a per capita basis or as a percentage of GDP, however, Moldova’s foreign workers are among the world’s leaders, as illustrated in the graph above, which is based on World Bank data. (I could not find a graphic with more recent data but there’s no doubt Moldova is still high on the list.)


Just like back home, much of this industry has moved online, for paying bills as well as for transferring and exchanging money. In fact, when I glanced last week at this yellow kiosk in the entrance to our local Market Victoria, I was startled to see bitcoin now listed as one of the options.


You can certainly find money-exchange shops in the United States, too, especially in places with lots of foreign-born workers. I must have walked obliviously past the Western Union sign at my Harris-Teeter supermarket in Durham dozens of times until I needed to send money to someone in China. Then I noticed it. Every picture tells a story when you’re finally ready to see it.


Weekly (No-)Book Club

Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 9.14.18 AMYou May Want to Marry My Husband by Amy Krouse Rosenthal was one of the most widely read — and heartbreaking — essays ever to appear in the New York Times “Modern Love” column, which published it ten days before Rosenthal died of cancer this past March. The actress Debra Winger later recorded a podcast of the author describing her husband’s devotion and her desire for him to find new happiness after her impending death.

Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 9.15.25 AMOn Tuesday afternoon, her words broke hearts again, this time among members of my weekly English conversation class. We read sections of the article aloud, listened to part of the podcast and then listened to another “Modern Love” podcast about how a woman dealt with her husband’s mid-life crisis.

This was a change of pace from some of the other articles I’ve assigned recently in my weekly class at the Ialoveni library for advanced English speakers who want to improve their reading and conversaton skills. Our previous selection was The School, a chilling 2007 article in which C.J. Chivers described a Chechan terrorist attack on a school in the Russian town of Beslan, which resulted in the deaths of at least 385 people.

Before that we read three essays by humorist David Sedaris, a Walter Isaacson article describing the science behind Mona Lisa’s smile and Atul Gawande’s article about how he and other physicians need to do more to help dying patients and their families. We’ve also discussed travel destinations, teenage anxiety and the linguistic implications of emojis.

Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 9.15.49 AMI originally planned the class as a more conventional book club, where we might read Harry Potter novels or other full-length works likely to appeal to Moldovan readers. When I spoke with a Moldovan friend who runs an English-language center, however, he warned me students wouldn’t have enough time to read the books, which would also be expensive for them to buy. Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 9.17.08 AM
He suggested I choose long articles instead, which the students could download or read online.

It was great advice. My students, who range from a Moldovan online journalist to an art student, are generally able to handle even the longer articles, and they come ready to share reactions and opinions that often fascinate me. Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 9.16.25 AMOur discussion about the Gawande article, for instance, led to a great conversation about how our two cultures handle death, not only in medical settings but more generally.

For our class next Tuesday I’ve assigned an extraordinary Cincinnati Enquirer series on Seven Days of Heroin. If you’re in Ialoveni and would like to join the discussion, please come to the class. If you’re back in the States and want to participate, (16:30 locally; 9:30 a.m. Eastern time on Feb. 6), please let me know and I’ll try to include you online.


Moms, Kids & Rusalina

Ialoveni families came on Sunday afternoon to Bebeteca, the library’s new program that combines a colorful play area for kids with educational programming for adults. Television personality Rusalina Rusu led a lively conversation with local parents while their kids played, as shown below in the slide show. The library, BPO “Petre Ştefănucă, launched Bebeteca earlier this month with support from our Peace Corps grant. It will be announcing future Bebeteca events on its Facebook page. If you live in Ialoveni, especially if you’re a parent with a youngster, come join us!

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‘Bebeteca’ for Families

Ialoveni’s library has something new for local families: “Bebeteca,” a colorful children’s room where kids can play while adults enjoy educational discussions with guest speakers.


On Sunday, Jan. 28, Rusalina Russu will speak at 1 p.m. at Bebeteca about how she grew up in Ialoveni and became one of Moldova’s best-known television personalities, hosting a show about families. The program is free and the public is invited to attend. [ADDED: Here’s a short post about her talk along with several fun photos of the moms and kids.]

Last week, local doctor Diana Slivinschi, above, discussed children’s infectious diseases. Future speakers are scheduled to discuss topics ranging from dental care for children to planning trips with kids or how Ialoveni provides support to vulnerable families. At some programs, librarians will read stories aloud with the children. The library’s Facebook page will provide details.


Parents and grandparents can enjoy the discussions while their kids play with toys and books the library has bought along with children’s furniture and a wall-mounted TV. IMG_0869Students from Ialoveni’s School of Art, upstairs from the library, are painting the room with an original mural featuring characters from national children’s stories.

“We are excited to offer this new programs for families in Ialoveni,” Valentina Plamadeala, director of BPO “Petre Ştefănucă” said. IMG_0832“We want to offer mothers and families the chance to meet, have fun and learn something new. We also hope they will explore the library while they’re here and borrow some books or sign up for our free programs, from learning English to making simple animated movies.”

Plamadeala said story-telling programs at libraries are popular in many countries, including Romania, but a new idea in Moldova. She hopes the Ialoveni program may inspire other libraries in Moldova to launch similar efforts.


Responding to information gathered in a community survey, BPO “Petre Ştefănucă” created the new space with the support of a U.S. Peace Corps grant and a small project Plamadeala implemented through the “Together for the Community” program of the Association of Librarians in the Republic of Moldova and the National Library of Moldova in partnership with the Novateca National Program.

Librarian Lidia Rusu and Peace Corps Volunteer David Jarmul developed the project, purchased the materials and worked with the rest of the library staff to create the room and organize the programs.

(A Romanian version of this article was posted by the library, which used the infographic below to describe its survey results showing wide community support for the project idea .)

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