By Laura Demmel
Grant, Neb. Native
From the farm in Nebraska to the small town in Moldova where I find myself today, I have always pondered how people live and to what degree they are able to thrive in their communities. I chose to become a United States Peace Corps Volunteer, because I desire to see rural communities flourish worldwide.
I want to take this opportunity to tell you a bit about Moldova, my service here, and also an event I hope to help implement with your help.
I have learned a lot about the Republic of Moldova, its history, economy, and culture since arriving here a year ago.Typical of anywhere, Moldovans love their family and close friends and try to find stable, well-paid jobs to maintain a decent standard of living.
They pride themselves on their hospitality. Their cultural traditions are rich, enduring, and deeply influenced by their Bessarabian heritage, decades of Soviet rule, as well as their Christian Orthodox beliefs. After the break-up of the Soviet Union and the creation of the Republic of Moldova in 1991, much has changed. Economically, the country had to painstakingly transition from a centralized economy to an open market.
Even over 20 years after the change, barriers to business development exist in the form of an unstable political and business environment; a lack of investment; and minimal education on successful business planning in an open economy.
My work through Peace Corps Moldova focuses particularly on small enterprise development. I work with the regional rural development center. Our office and local consultants in the villages assist farmers with writing business plans, accessing funding to improve farm operations, and providing on-the-farm technical assistance.
I also focus my time toward business education for youth. Last fall, I taught an 8-week business course to 25 high school students. Many of them learned entirely new concepts in the area of economics, marketing, business planning, budgeting, and professionalism.
Although this short-term class was a success, I now focus on forming partnerships with existing organizations that have the ability to make long-term impacts with Moldovan youth’s entrepreneurial endeavors.
To that end, my Peace Corps colleagues and I have partnered with Junior Achievement Moldova, an organization whose main goal is to educate youth about entrepreneurship and financial literacy. We are organizing an event that will bring together 60 youth from across Moldova to gain and apply business skills as they work to develop innovative business ideas for rural Moldova.
The vision of the “Innovation Camp” is to motivate participants to utilize the knowledge and business ideas created to build viable businesses for rural Moldova.
To find out more about the project or to donate to the project, search online for Peace Corps Moldova Innovation Camp. Alternatively, you can donate by sending a check via UPS (not through the postal office) to the “Office of Gifts and Grants Management, 1111 20th Street NW, Washington, DC 20526” with my name (Laura Demmel) and project number (13-261-011) on it. We need funding by the end of August to implement the project in late September.
As I consider the year that I have spent in Moldova, I remain ever more grateful for the great community from which I came. The warm-hearted and giving people of Perkins County, the high quality educational system and health care system, and the tight-knit community itself are all things that can easily be taken for granted.
I will forever share with the world my life experiences and values from small town life in Nebraska.
To find out more about my experience in Moldova, visit my blog at http://moldovacornhusker.blogspot.com/ The opinions expressed in this article do not reflect any position of my employer, the U.S. Government, or the Peace Corps.