Tag Archives: partnership

20 Years of Partnership

I published an article Thursday, May 16, in the Raleigh News & Observer about North Carolina’s extraordinary partnership with Moldova. I‘m sharing the article here along with photos of an April 27 conference in Raleigh where teachers, nurses, politicians and others discussed the partnership. My Peace Corps volunteer colleague Jim Fletcher (pointing below) and I were among the speakers.


Later this week, North Carolina will renew its partnership with a little-known country that’s been bringing out the best in our state’s people for more than two decades.

North Carolina’s National Guard has been helping the country’s defense forces throughout this time. Librarians from Wilmington and across the state have sent it more than 350,000 books. Nurses, dentists, pharmacists and others have provided medical assistance. A Hendersonville group has renovated some of its orphanages and schools.

Jim Fletcher and the two of us met with N.C. Sec. of State Elaine Marshall prior to the conference.

North Carolina recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of its extraordinary partnership with the country and the amazing thing is that many North Carolinians have never heard of the country, much less about the partnership.

It’s the Republic of Moldova, a former Soviet state one-fourth the size of North Carolina that’s wedged near the Black Sea between Romania and Ukraine. It’s the poorest country in Europe, with a struggling economy, political instability and other problems. It’s also beautiful, with lush vineyards and farmland, a rich culture and wonderful people.

My wife, Champa, and I had barely heard of it, either, when we left our home in Durham three years ago to serve there as Peace Corps volunteers in a group that included volunteers from Asheville, Charlotte, Boone, Winston-Salem and Raleigh. We were posted to a small city where we lived with a host family and I worked at the library while Champa taught at the school. (I described our adventures on my blog, Not Exactly Retired.)

A welcome table featured Moldovan crafts and foods.

While we were there, we kept hearing about Moldova’s partnership with, of all places, North Carolina, which turned out to be a big deal.

The partnership began with North Carolina’s National Guard assisting Moldova’s defense forces when the Soviet Union ended and Moldova became independent. The partnership has grown to include civic, educational and other organizations, including religious groups that range from Christian groups based in Claremont and Dublin to the Greensboro Jewish Federation.

In 1999, North Carolina and Moldova signed a collaborative agreement through the NATO Partnership for Peace. Governors of both parties have renewed it regularly and another renewal is planned when a delegation led by N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall travels to Moldova’s capital later this week.

“North Carolinians should be proud of this partnership,” former U.S. Ambassador to Moldova Michael Kirby said at a recent conference in Raleigh that brought together participants from across the state. “I’ve never seen another relationship like this.”

Champa and I gave students postcards from our home town of Durham at this workshop in Criuleni, Moldova.

The partnership has been “an important force for peace, an important force for democracies going forward,” agreed Rep. David Price, who recently visited Moldova as part of a bipartisan Congressional group.

In addition to receiving support within its own borders, Moldova has sent groups of experts to North Carolina to learn about topics ranging from judicial reform to agriculture. In turn, North Carolinians have benefited, too.

“I’m from Eastern North Carolina, where Raleigh is hours away,” said Elaine Justice, principal of an elementary school in Swansboro whose teachers and students interact with a Moldovan school. “Our kids, by being connected through this, are growing. They don’t just see themselves as living on the edge of North Carolina. They’re becoming global citizens.”

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This past summer, when my wife and I returned to Durham, we found America beset with political rancor. It’s been a relief to get involved in this bipartisan partnership where Republicans and Democrats, military veterans and university students and people of diverse ages, faiths and ethnicities are working together to provide assistance and form friendships with people in a struggling democracy, exemplifying what’s best about North Carolina. As Sec. Marshall told the conference, the program’s success is “due to people with a heart who are willing to share it.”

I hope more people get involved in the partnership and perhaps even visit Moldova. It’s a fascinating place that’s waiting to bring out the best in them, too.

David Jarmul, the former head of news and communications at Duke University, served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Moldova with his wife, Champa.


North Carolina’s Partner

Kate Hughey usually teaches fourth graders in Charlotte, N.C., but on Monday she taught a crowded room of English teachers in Chișinău, the capital of Moldova. She described her collaborations with fellow teachers on student projects that blend multiple subjects and demonstrated how to make videos easily with homemade “green screens.”


“We don’t do cross-disciplinary projects in Moldova, so this is really interesting for us. It’s a model we can adapt for our situation,” said Daniela Munca-Aftenev, president of the Academy for Innovation and Change through Education (top photo, left), which hosted the talk at Biblioteca Hasdeu along the city’s main boulevard.


It was Kate’s first day in a week of activities in Moldova and the latest in a partnership that has linked North Carolina and this East European nation since 1999.

IMG_3709I was invited because I recently assisted the partnership as it prepared to ship hundreds of English-language books to Moldova with two NGOs. I worked with Bob Gingrich, Peace Corps Moldova’s director of management and operations and a fellow North Carolinian (left in photo), who will soon distribute the books among PCVs to share with their host communities.

IMG_3827I ate lunch with Kate before her talk so she could tell me more about the partnership and I could answer some of her questions about Moldova, which she is visiting for the first time, thanks to a grant from World Affairs Council of Charlotte. Kate, who teaches at Charlotte Latin School, is among the pioneers of a school-to-school program that connects teachers and students in Moldova and North Carolina. Her students recently collected 50 boxes of reading books for schools here.

IMG_3778Also arriving here this past weekend was Willow Stone, a student from Clayton High School who will live with a Moldovan host family and study Russian.

Elaine Marshall, North Carolina’s secretary of state, has guided the partnership as it has expanded beyond its initial collaboration between the N.C. National Guard and the Defense Forces of Moldova to include private firms, civic organizations, non-profit agencies and individuals, with planning committees in both North Carolina and Moldova.


Its projects have ranged from education to medicine, culture and the economy. The Greensboro Jewish Federation assisted a Moldovan Jewish community. Officers of the U.S. Armed Forces helped build a playground for the children of Moldovan military families. The University of North Carolina School of Dentistry sent teams to assist an orphanage. My former colleagues at Duke University and others have sent medical supplies. When I tried to help someone here find information for the local wine industry, an expert from North Carolina State University responded to help us.

The exchanges have gone in the other direction as well, with Moldovans spending time at schools, universities, companies and other institutions in North Carolina.

Kate will be giving several presentations this week, visiting the Ministry of Education and touring some of Moldova’s touristic sites. IMG_3784The Moldovans who attended on Monday picked up not only new teaching ideas but also armloads of free books to bring back to their schools. Some of them have also interacted over the years with Peace Corps Moldova’s English Education program, in which Champa has served.

The two of us have only a week left in Peace Corps Moldova, where we’ve served alongside volunteers from Asheville, Charlotte, Boone, Winston-Salem, Raleigh, Gastonia, Rocky Mount and other parts of our state. We look forward to working with the partnership ourselves after we return to our home in Durham.

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Carolina du Nord


Duke and UNC will compete again on Thursday evening in college basketball’s greatest rivalry, so it’s a good day to share my answer to anyone in Moldova who asks where Champa and I live in the United States: “Carolina du Nord” (Cair-o-LEE-na du nord).

screen-shot-2017-02-08-at-7-51-52-amFive other members of my Peace Corps group also call North Carolina home. As you can see in the top photo, we hail from Asheville, Boone, Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Durham and Raleigh. From the left, we’re Tim Crowley, Alex Bostian, Tom Harvey, Reggie Gravely, myself, Champa and Jim Fletcher. The six of us are now working as volunteers across Moldova.


To give you a sense of scale, North Carolina (one of 50 U.S. states) is four times larger than Moldova, with roughly three times as many people.

North Carolina is famous for its barbecue; Moldova is known for its wine; North Carolina had Andy Griffith. Moldova has Andy’s Pizza. North Carolina produced the basketball star Stephen Curry;  Moldova’s national hero is Stephan cel Mare. On and on it goes.

It’s no wonder Moldovans and Tarheels have formed close ties. For more than 20 years, the N.C. Army National Guard has been helping to modernize Moldova’s military and police, screen-shot-2017-02-08-at-10-10-13-amproviding training in anti-terrorism, cyber defense, emergency medicine and other areas. In 1999, North Carolina established an official partnership with Moldova, which now includes the efforts of numerous private firms, civic organizations and nonprofit agencies. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, who oversees the partnership, has visited Moldova at least 10 times.

North Carolinians have built playgrounds and a medical clinic, trained medical personnel and provided computers in Moldova. They’ve hosted more than 250 Moldovan farmers and hundreds of students at Southeastern Community College. UNC-Chapel Hill offers online education assistance. NC State pairs grade-school classrooms with Moldovan counterparts.

A personal story: When I contacted the NC State agricultural extension service  to see if they had any information that might help wine growers in my district, they responded by telling me about one of their professors who had just returned from Moldova to provide workshops on the subject.

North Carolina members of our Peace Corps Moldova group gathered at our swearing-in ceremony last summer. From left, Tom Harvey (Charlotte), Alex Bostian (Boone), Tim Crowley (Asheville), Reggie Gravely (Winston-Salem), Champa Jarmul (Durham), Jim Fletcher (Raleigh) and David Jarmul (Durham)

North Carolina’s most visible presence in Moldova is its Peace Corps volunteers, who are teaching in schools, working with local governments and libraries and promoting small business efforts. screen-shot-2017-02-08-at-7-57-52-amOur ranks also include Mark Gilchrist, left, a volunteer in the group ahead of us. An article by Mark, who previously worked for the News Reporter in Columbus County, describes the collaboration in greater detail. Mark also produces an excellent blog and newsletter.

Another fellow volunteer and blogger, Rebecca Lehman, recently hosted a program that featured the many ties between North Carolina and Moldova. She produced the chart at the top of this post. Curiously, Rebecca herself came to Moldova from Cincinnati. She’s a remarkably nice person for someone who hails from a state with the audacity to call itself the birthplace of aviation just because the Wright Brothers came from Dayton.

The true home of aviation, of course, is Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, where the Wright Brothers first rose into the sky. Here in Moldova, regardless of which team we’re cheering for tonight, and despite all of the political turmoil of the past couple of years, we’re proud to call it our home, too.