Shine Bright like a Diamond

Yeahhh, it has been a while since I have updated this blog, but life has just been fairly boring as of late. The sun rises (maybe) at 8am and goes down at 4pm, leaving me with little to no motivation to do anything besides lay in bed binge-watching Law and Order:SVU. #NoRagrets

However, this past weekend, I was fortunate enough to participate in a competition that has been positively impacting driven Moldovan youth through entrepreneurship called Diamond Challenge. I have been serving as a mentor for two 12th grade girls from my community who expressed a desire to participate in this nationwide competition. As a mentor, I was responsible for keeping them on task, helping them organize their ideas, and editing their concept paper that they would submit for judging. The idea was formulated and all of the legwork was completed by these two outstanding youth, which is the entire idea of the competition.

The idea that they came up with is known as “Bubble Double” and it is a laundry service that would work with vulnerable families/individuals in our town to wash and dry their laundry on a regular basis. It is not uncommon for households within Moldova to not have a washing machine, often requiring the females of the house to wash the clothes by hand. On top of that, impoverished families and individuals sometimes do not have running water in their house which means that water must be collected from wells within their neighborhoods (this can sometimes require a 10 minute walk with full pails of water in each hand). This takes up a lot of time that could be used in other ways–spending time with family, other household chores–and would save elderly individuals from having to perform such laborious work so often. The laundry service would work on a “pay as you can” scale for vulnerable individuals while community organizations (schools, kindergarten, retirement home, etc.) and more financially solvent families would be encouraged to use the service for a flat rate per kilogram of laundry. Bubble Double’s hope is that, by having clean clothes more often, individuals in vulnerable situations would exhibit higher self-esteem, self-confidence, and would have more opportunities to contribute to their community through stable work and improved social perception.

After submitting a 5-page concept paper outlining our goals, implementation scheme, and financial expectations, our team was invited to present a business pitch in the capital against other qualifying teams from Moldova. There were 10 teams in total–most of those from the capital or its surrounding areas. Each group was asked to make a 5 minute presentation about their projects to a panel of judges made up of successful entrepreneurs from Moldova…oh yeah, and everything was done in English. After the presentations were completed, judges were allowed to ask questions to the teams for 3.5 minutes. Some of the project ideas included creating a composting movement throughout the country, creating an online space where interested volunteers could connect with organizations in Moldova needing volunteers, and connecting Moldovan youth with adult mentors that would serve as career coaches. Every project had to have a social entrepreneurship focus and the winner of the competition received $1000 and the opportunity to travel to the University of Delaware to compete against teams from 42 other countries.

While Bubble Double did not receive one of the top-3 placements in the competition, our presenter did receive the most positive comments on her public speaking skills and presentation style. The judges were very transparent in their appreciation for her command of public speaking and her proficient English and other mentors were not shy in telling me that her presentation was exceptional. After not receiving an award, I assured my team member that the positive feedback she was receiving about her presentation qualified as a win in my book and it should in hers as well.

Fast forward three days…

I receive a call from one of my Diamond Challenge girls telling me that an organization within the capital reached out to the organizers of Diamond Challenge. This organization asked to be put in touch with my team as they wish to help them implement their project within our community. So, while we may not have won the Diamond Challenge competition, we still came out winners where it matters. I am excited to see what comes of this in the future and this experience only further proved that it is our youth that will bring about the change we need most.

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