In January I applied and was selected to receive a ‘SPA’ (Small Project Assistance) grant. These grants are funded by USAID, and delivered and managed through Peace Corps posts around the world. I applied for the grant with my primary organization CASMED, which provides medical and social services to the elderly in Northern Moldova.
CASMED currently provides services in 16 communities, 10 of which have local NGOs. One of my goals in working with CASMED, is to develop these NGOs, into a network in the northern part of Moldova and to develop them as individual NGOs. One great tool that many NGOs fail to fully leverage is using youth as resources.
I believe that dealing with this problem requires a multi-tiered approach. It is not enough to simply train youth, as is so common in Moldova, you also need to provide basic training for NGO Directors and to require youth to complete projects as a part of the training. The reason for this is that too often NGO Directors do not understand how to use effectively, develop and keep youth volunteers. Furthermore youth here are often given trainings that involve no practical, real-world application. A combination of these two factors leads many in the NGO community here to doubt the usefulness of youth volunteers.
This grant allows for my organization to provide trainings for the NGO Directors from these partner NGOs in rural communities and for youth from each community, so that there are trained youth, NGO Directors ready to act as mentors and youth empowered to complete specific projects, with monitoring through our organization. Through this SPA grant, I will hopefully develop not only these NGOs as a network, but also offer them a strong groundwork for using youth as resources.
The project focuses on two target groups , which are : 63 youth and 9 NGOs in rural communities. Initially 22 youth are being trained, 2-3 from each community, then these youth are required to involve at least two other youth in the implementation of their projects and to provide trainings for five others.
The youth are required to complete four projects, an advocacy event for the rights of elderly, an advocacy event for the rights of youth, a local fundraiser and a youth volunteer training in their community. Throughout all of these the youth will receive mentorship from their local NGO Directors and from our Project Coordinator.
We are currently finishing the last weekend of youth trainings, and I have been impressed by the youth who are involved. For many this was their first time to leave their village, for more it was their first time being exposed to this type of work – a lot are very motivated, with one team already starting a fundraiser at their school and another girl blogging about the trainings – here.
I am excited to see these youth begin their projects, to help them build their local NGOs, themselves and a network of NGOs and Volunteering throughout northern Moldova.
One of my favorite activities to do during volunteer trainings is related to Project Design and Management. After the youth have been trained on Project Idea, Design and Management, they are given 30 minutes to break into teams and design a project. After each team has designed a project, they are asked to ‘implement it’.
This means they need to go speak with the Mayor, local Businessman, School Director and Director of the Casa de Cultura, who are all other volunteers, pretending to be these people. These volunteers are usually directed to not say yes to anything for the first half hour, instead requiring the volunteers to ask other ‘community leaders’ for support. The goal of the simulation is to get the participants used to pitching their project, asking for help, letting them know who they can go to in their community for different kinds of help and how they might react.
During the simulation the Community Leaders put sticky notes on projects with their signature when they had been approved. One group decided that they did not want to wait in anymore lines for ‘meetings’ with the ‘Community Leaders,’ and decided to forge approval notes, leading to a funny ‘meeting’ with the Mayor, School Director and NGO Director.
During the course of the two weekends with the youth, the youth had the chance to learn about volunteering, advocacy, project design and management, fundraising, marketing and many other useful topics. The chance to participate in the project “Removing gaps between generations in rural areas of northern Moldavia ” youth will enjoy the following localities: Făleşti Floresti Singer Rezina and Balti .