gagauzia

In May I became the Peace Corps volunteer leader for the community and organizational development program in Moldova.  I’ve decided to post the bulk of my application/work proposal so that people can get a better idea of some of the things I will/have been be doing and to talk about some of the work that a PC country office does to support volunteers. 

During my first two years of service, I have built individual and organizational capacity with a small NGO; helped facilitate volunteer and staff trainings on a variety of topics, including project design and volunteer diversity; and developed professional and friendly relationships with volunteers, program staff, and Moldovan counterparts. 

In a third year as a COD PCV and as a PCVL, my work will include: 1) technical and personal support of trainees and volunteers, 2) site development, including work on counterpart preparation in Gagauzia and Russian-speaking communities, 3) network and capacity building at a new primary partner organization, and 4) basic organizational and individual capacity building with small initiative groups in Gagauzia.

I will also be looking for smaller projects to help with integration in my new community.

Technical and personal support for trainees and volunteers

Over the past two years, I have facilitated volunteer training sessions on strategic planning with a counterpart, project design, and capacity building. I also have supported a few individual volunteers as they created useable strategic plans with their partners with focus on improving PCV-counterpart relationships, skills transfer, and community (local volunteer, employee, beneficiary) involvement. 

As a PCVL, I will provide the following direct support to volunteers and trainees:

  • Visit COD M26 volunteers within the first three months at site and provide a report on findings and ideas for follow up 
  • Visit first and second year PCVs on as needed basis, to support with a training or particular task with PCV and his or her counterpart
  • Provide technical assistance to volunteers by email and telephone on specific topics, like basic capacity building, and establishing relationships with secondary organizations 
  • Deliver  sessions during pre and in-service trainings (on strategic planning, PDM, finding and defining work)

Collaboration with programming staff and other PCVLs to improve volunteer service includes: 

  • Support of program staff in reviewing the training flow and training designs
  • Collecting success stories from PCVs and their partners to be shared and used in promotional materials
  • Identifying and creating a list of useful resources for COD PCVs
  • Connecting PCVs across programs based on the skill sets and needs
  • Support of program staff in reviewing the training flow and training designs
  • Keeping track of duties performed and help create resources for future PCVLs

Site development 

  • Promote Peace Corps, identify potential sites and expand PC network
  • Explore future Russian-speaking counterparts’ needs for a volunteer and give them a better idea of a potential volunteer’s skills and abilities
  • Assist future Russian-speaking counterparts in designing PCV job descriptions
  • Review and provide feedback on the site development process together with the PMs
  • Promote PC work and success 
  • Collect and maintain information about organizations that exist in Moldova but that do not have a volunteer
  • Counterpart preparation in Gagauzia and other Russian-speaking communities

Partner with NGO “Stability”

“Stability” is a five-year-old nongovernmental organization in Comrat whose goals includes increasing gender equality, civic participation, and leadership in the Comrat raion and Gagauzia. From my preliminary visit to Stability, it is clear that the organization has experience and success that surpasses that of any of the organizations with which I have previously worked in Moldova. Therefore, my work will address very specific needs of the organization. At a recent site development meeting in May, the director expressed interest in having a PCV’s assistance improving the organization’s regional and national networks and management of volunteers and increasing the quality and number of opportunities for youth in the organization’s target areas.

Small initiative groups in Gagauzia

Bridging programmatic and volunteer support, site development, and work with Stability, would be work building basic capacity with small initiative groups and  undeveloped organizations in Gagauzian villages. 

At my former site, the NGO “Women’s Initiative” and its director are a center of nongovernmental work and civil society in the town and raion of Ceadir-Lunga. Representatives from initiative groups, schools, parent-teacher organizations, and even village primarias come to the organization for help and information about solving local problems, starting NGOs, writing projects, and finding money. The director of Woman’s Initiative, however, does not have the knowledge, ability, the time to fully help these village-based initiative groups and  active citizens realize their own goals. 

The director of the NGO and I began exploring creating an initiative group development program early this year and received notice of interest from parent teacher groups and social assistance initiatives from around the raion.  In a third year, I would capitalize on this interest and, with the support of Women’s Initiative, Peace Corps, and potentially Stability, assist these initiative groups do the following:

  • Create  new strategic plans written with concrete goals and coherent missions, applicable to village problems and focused on local assets and resources
  • Establish  networks of primarily village-based initiative groups 
  • Improve identification and management of local resources, local volunteers, employees, local fundraising, budgeting practices, strategic planning, and project design

Even minimal success would result in the opening up of new villages for future placement of Peace Corps Volunteers and increased capacity of local actors to solve local problems.

Other work in Komrat

I will also begin building a relationship with the Romanian school in town. The director has expressed interest in my help with extracurricular activities.

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Gagauz music from Gagauzia, Moldova

As Ukraine’s tensions with Russia come to a boil, residents of Moldova are keeping a watchful eye on their neighbor. In February, Moldova’s autonomous region of Gagauzia – home to a Russian-speaking, ethnically Turkic minority – voted for closer ties with Russia, and voted against closer EU integration for Moldova. Gagauz voters also supported the region’s right to declare independence should Moldova lose or surrender its own autonomy. The Moldovan government declared the referendum illegal. Here is a look at daily life inside the autonomous region of some 155,000 residents.

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Sorry about the quality of the pictures, they were taken with my computer’s built in camera. Sorry about the quality of the post, I’m exhausted.

I’ve moved in to my new apartment in Comrat, the regional capital of Gagauzia in Moldova. The apartment is on the fifth floor in the center of town and overlooks the small university, the central church, an exercise playground, and pretty much the whole town. There are restaurants, a giant outdoor market, and more busses departing in one day than I’m used to in a week.  In the past two days I’ve made more food than I have in the last two years: peach compote, empanadas, fajitas, and stir fry. I actually read recipe books before I go to bed and make lists of ingredients.

The market here is incredible. There are hundreds of stalls packed into a few alleyways and a fantastic variety of fruits, vegetables, pots, pans, clothes, spices, notebooks, bicycles, honey, wine, shoes, and more. I’ve spent a few hours wandering around and taking notes. A kilogram of tomatoes cost 6 lei (2.2 lbs for 50 cents) and small red and green peppers cost about 7 lei a kilogram.

Tomorrow I will be posting my entire 3rd year/PCV Leader work proposal and you won’t want to miss that. It’s going to be an exciting 8 months!

The Republic of Gagauzia

Moldova is considered to be one of the most ethnically diverse countries in Europe due to the soviet disapora, and many ethnicities such as turks, russians, romanians, and more went to work in the Moldovan SSR.  However, one ethnic group has been there even longer.

The Gagauz Turks (or “Long Nose Turks”, “Turkish Speaking Bulgars”) migrated into Bulgaria on the tails of the Oghuz Turks, and resided there until the reign of Tsar Nicholas II, who expelled them from Russia just like he had tried to do with the Jews. Many Gagauz people still live in Bulgaria and Greece, but the expelled settled in Moldova, where they were forced to adopt Orthodox Christianity (formerly they were muslim) to stay.  

The Gagauz community in Moldova was reportedly treated well by the USSR (although as you all know, these claims are hard to back up concretely), and just like in Transnistria, when Moldova flared with nationalism at its independence the Gagauz wanted out.  There was fighting from 1991-1994, where the Gagauz were supported by the Transnistrian government.  

the Gagauz were not as tied to Russia or in questionable industries like the Transnistrian government, and a decision was reached between them and the government in Moldova to grant the Gagauz communities the right to be an autonomous government under the Moldovan government, complete with their own universities, authorities, and leader figure.  

There are still tensions, however.  The Gagauz are fiercely loyal to their culture, and most speak Gagauz Turkish and Russian, but hardly any speak Romanian unless they live outside the republic.  Moldovan university exams require the ability to speak Romanian, and the Gagauz accuse the Moldovans of intentionally holding their people back from jobs that pay more and require more education.  

One main source of income for Gagauzia is wine, since the rural nature of the community (there is one city– the capital, Comrat– and two sizeable towns in Gagauzia) is perfect for large vineyards.  They accuse the Moldovan government of stealing their wine profits– if you’ve heard of how famous Moldovan wine is… it just might be from Gagauzia.  

Since boundaries were granted based on where the Gagauz lived, the Republic is very fragmented, and parts of Moldova and Odessa Oblast in Ukraine intersect it.  

Gagauzia is in pink on the bottom left, Transnistria Orange on the right.  

Entrance to Comrat

Unofficial flag of Gagauzia during the 1991-1994 conflict.  The dog was an important symbol for the people.  Comrat also has quite the problem with stray dogs.

Official flag of Gagauzia. Like Transnistria gets support from Russia, Gagauzia gets support from Turkey.

(sorry for the delay.  Hopefully my posts will be less Blah in the future :) )

Meeting with a Gagauzia delegation in Moscow on March 26, Slutsky said “we fully approve of the poll.” Gagauzia has a population of about 155,000, mostly ethnically Gagauz, Turkic-speaking Orthodox Christians. Its residents voted in an unauthorized referendum for integration with a Moscow-led Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia in February. Chisinau, which initialed an EU Association Agreement in November, called the referendum illegal, saying it challenges Moldova’s territorial integrity. Meanwhile, the chairwoman of the Delegation to the EU-Moldova Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, Romania’s Monica Macovei, told RFE/RL this week that Moldova may sign the political part of the Association Agreement with the EU before signing the economic part, like Ukraine did after Russia annexed its Crimean Peninsula. (via Russian Deputy Praises Gagauzia’s Referendum)