This past week I have spent time with 95 Moldovan youth campers, 20 Moldovan youth camp staff, and 4 other Americans implementing one of the most impressive and impactful summer camps that exists in Moldova. Wave Week Moldova (WWM) is a școala de vara (summer school) that teaches motivated and engaged Moldovan youth the basics of project planning, equipping them with the information that they need in order to implement a service project of their own design within their communities. This camp is based on a curriculum created by a US program, Spark the Wave, that has been facilitating Wave Week camps at Villanova and Georgetown for 25 years. This is the 9th summer for WWM and a few lucky PCVs are able to act as auxiliary staff members every summer. I applied to work with this camp back in November, was chosen in December, and have been participating in trainings and meetings since then. The staff at WWM is comprised of Moldovan youth that have participated in the program in past summers so us PCVs help train them on various professional skills in the months leading up to camp. We facilitated sessions on public speaking, multiple aptitudes, and facilitation methods in order to prepare them to lead the WWM 2017 delegates through the CORE curriculum that Wave Week is based around.
The CORE consists of sessions about leadership, communication, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and various project planning strategies. This curriculum is great and I have really loved watching my CORE staff take ownership of their sessions and facilitate them effectively to the delegates. I was lucky enough to help facilitate the Myers-Briggs sessions which, as you may or may not know, I have a little bit of experience doing. I have been helping my mom deliver True Colors trainings since high school and it is heavily based off MBTI so the transition was seamless. My CORE team remarked that they had never seen anyone facilitate MBTI as well as I had and that was definitely a nice thing to hear during such a long and action packed week. I was also asked to share my “expertise” on SWOT analyses, which I have become a pro at since we have to submit a new one every time we report our data to Peace Corps HQ. Give me a situation and I can SWOT with the best of ‘em!
During the week, the delegates and staff also participate in a service project so that they can start their journey with volunteerism. This year, there were three projects: repainting and cleaning a local playground, spending time with tiny humans at the gradiniță (preschool), and promoting a social campaign (created by the organizers of WWM) that is geared toward encouraging active citizenship within Moldova. My group was responsible for the playground restoration. It was a nice opportunity for the youth to get out into a community and experience what volunteering looks and feels like. Our work was validated by a very nice lady who yelled down from her apartment thanking us…there were some other words of praise, I think, but she was speaking Russian so I really have no idea.
Outside of all the learning, Wave Week staff and delegates also make sure to leave time for fun! During the week, staff organized and hosted activities such as water games, pick-up sports games, a scavenger hunt, and multiple quiz nights. We also had a talent show that turned into a discoteca (no surprise there as Moldovans LOVE to dance) and my fellow volunteer, Chris, participated in the show by reciting a poem in Romanian. In Moldova, it is common practice to have children in schools memorize and recite poems and this recitation of poems is often used as a “punishment” for being late to class, meetings, etc. Having lived in Moldova for 2 years, Chris was completely prepared for this event and had a memorized poem in the back of his mind in case he ever found himself late. His recitation was a huge hit with our staff and delegates!
One of the events that I was tasked with for the week was the organization of the “Let’s Talk” sessions, which were started to give delegates the opportunity to practice their spoken English skills with native English speakers since few of them have the opportunity to do so in school. The topics that are covered in these sessions often include important social topics that aren’t really discussed in schools, but are so important to talk about with this future generation. The topics this year included: Cultural Differences, What Makes Moldova Great, Gender Roles and Inequalities, and LGBTQ Rights and Discrimination. I led the Gender Roles and Inequalities session and the conversations that I had with my group of young ladies was so impactful and important. I feel so lucky to have gotten to interact with these youth and the words that they said will forever remain in my mind. I showed them one of my favorite commercials/campaigns from the States (#LikeAGirl from Always) during this session and, at its completion, the girls applauded loudly with tear-filled eyes.
At the end of the week, all of the project groups present their ideas in front of all of the delegates and the staff. This year, project ideas ranged from hosting an outdoor concert to raise money for a vulnerable family to creating awareness workshops geared toward students who have been victims of school corruption to starting recycling campaigns in towns across the country. Wave Week Moldova has a history of having the highest implementation rate out of all of the Wave Week programs and, after meeting the 2017 delegates, I have no doubt that we will keep that momentum.
Wave Week is very often the first time these Moldovan teenagers have ever participated in volunteering so, while they are excited and motivated, that is often coupled with hesitance and nerves because it is unlike anything they have ever taken on before. With my background in volunteerism (21 years of it), participating in this camp was a no-brainer and I have absolutely loved seeing the passion and devotion for serving others come to life in the eyes of my delegates. Participating in this camp has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my service so far and I cannot wait for Wave Week 2018!