I have now been in Moldova for exactly ten months, as of today, and have been at site (Balti) for eight months. During this time I have worked on quite a few projects, but one of the largest and most successful so far has been a project titled, Salut Balti. I’ve mentioned this project a little bit previously in my blog, but there’s a been a lot happening recently relating to it, so I will use this post to provide some updates on where this project is at.
Salut, Balti! is the Balti Primaria’s initiative to develop volunteering in Balti municipality. In August, myself and two other Peace Corps Volunteers here were contacted by the Balti primaria to assist them in interpreting and implementing the legislation that they had passed in June regarding the developement of a municipality wide volunteering initiative. After many hours of translating and reviewing the legislation, creating a plan and then many meetings with our great local partners – the first concrete step in Salut, Balti was taken, as we hosted the three weekends of youth trainings. These trainings were on Leadership, Volunteering and Project for two youth from every high school in Balti and upon the completion of these trainings youth divided themselves into teams and were given three months to design and enact projects in the community with the help of mentors.
On Friday, May 21st, Salut, Balti hosted trainings for NGOs, social centers and other charitable organizations in Balti. The purpose for these trainings was two fold, first to make sure that these organizations were aware of Salut, Balti and the Primaria’s efforts to encourage volunteering and also to help expand these organization’s knowledge of volunteers.
These trainings focused on teaching the Organizations about how to recruit, how to train and use and how to reward and retain volunteers. The purpose for this was to help with some of the problems we have seen Organizations here having. Many organizations want volunteers, but aren’t sure how or where to find them, and once they have them they often aren’t sure how to use them, or more often, how to use them effectively.
The session on recruitment was taught by an experienced former volunteer who is now a Project Coordinator at two local NGOs. The session on how to use and train volunteers was taught by myself and my co-worker Anna, based on what we have done with our NGO’s volunteering program, what has worked and what has not. The third session of the day, on volunteer reward and retention, was lead by another Peace Corps Volunteer from Balti, who has an extensive background in Human Resources.
Over 20 organizations from Balti attended these trainings and overall it seemed to be successful and engaging. If nothing else, we now have a short list of organizations that are aware of Salut, Balti and might be interested in using volunteers.
Youth Awards Event – Project Presentations
This past Friday, March 28th, we had an awards event to celebrate the youth from the November trainings, who had successfully completed projects. We had originally nine youth teams, of which seven completed projects in the community.
Most of the teams lost members as the projects wore on, meaning that about 80% of the original training participants completed projects. The ones that did not complete were due to different reasons, but at least one trend I saw, was that the teams with a strong mentor or a strong youth leader within the team all completed.
The types of projects the youth completed varied greatly. We had several who did gift and toy donation drives for children in the community and one of these teams even decided to continue to volunteer there every week, after the intial gift giving was completed. Another team created a year-long plan (including step by step SWOT analyses) to make their school more ecologically friendly and had already begun by implementing trainings, creating a recycling program and promoting efficient electrical usage.
We had another team who implemented their own set of youth trainings and then mentored the youth they trained. This project which was V-cubed in action – volunteers training volunteers who trained volunteers, produced two really unique projects, one sports competition for children and the other a project to help feed and create a warm house for the homeless dogs that roam the streets here in packs.
Now that the youth teams have all finished and presented their projects, we’re offering the option for any members of these teams, or other youth from the community who has organized, lead or directed a volunteering project to be a part of the youth volunteer coordination council or CCTV, as it translates to in Romanian.
This council’s mission is to support youth initiatives in Balti, helping youth implement projects through providing mentoring, developing the skills and capacities of young volunteers, creating a network of young volunteers and civil society organizations and promoting the work of Salut, Balti’s youth initiative.
Another interesting upcoming part of the Salut, Balti program, is the Mini-grants program that will be launching very soon. This program involves approximately 70,000 lei from the Primaria of Balti, that has been allocated to offering mini-grants for youth volunteering projects in Balti. As a part of working on Salut Balti, I helped to design the structure and qualifications for these grants and will be a part of launching, monitoring and developing this grants program.
The grants program is both very exciting and a little overwhelming. It’s exciting to help structure something like this, the first of this kind of program in Moldova, something that can serve as a model to other communities here and elsewhere who might want to enact something like this.
We will also have an official Salut, Balti website launching sometime in the next month. This website will look something like facebook of five years ago, providing users with the ability to create profiles, however the users on this site will be in two categories, either volunteers or organizations and the site will be geared towards matching volunteers with volunteering opportunities and keeping track of volunteering projects. Once the site launches, I promise to post a more in-detail explanation of all its features and a link to it.