30 Days Straight: #5

– Gaining community support seems like it would be the easiest task in completing our IT project. All we need to do is have our business owners answer 5 questions asking them to explain briefly why they would like to acquire free computers and other equipment to improve their businesses and knowledge. The point of the questionnaires is to provide evidence that this project is wanted by our owners to the investment committee. Unfortunately, when I knocked on 20 office doors today I received only 3 answers by 2 employees and 1 owner. As a result 3 completed surveys of the 20 required lie on my desk and it disappoints me. For new businesses it is crucial that owners or at least employees are keeping operations active to the public. Absenteeism confuses consumers and makes them switch services rather quickly. A lot of our owners do not work consistent hours and show an unwillingness to take the 10 minutes necessary to get certain documentation done. I have tried to distribute surveys in the past in order to improve business seminars for our owners and it felt like I was pulling teeth. The surveys were conducted to improve the process for them. It frustrates me because my partner and I have put in a lot of hours and effort in order to procure technology and materials they need to grow their firms. It also worries me because if and when we receive the grant, I am not sure how much participation my partner and I will receive at our specialized IT and administrative trainings that are scheduled to last 1 hour per lesson. I hope that sooner rather than later we can gain enough support to submit our project to the Small Project Assistance (SPA) committee by next week.

– In-depth conversation with my partner today made me fully understand the reality of business in Moldova. Our two bakers are threatening to leave the building because they cannot or refuse to pay bills and raised taxes. Furthermore, my partner’s brother-in-law lost his grocery store in Cantemir yesterday due to similar circumstances. Taxes and operations costs are incredibly high and profit margins are incredibly low in most industries around the country. In return businesses do not have a very high ceiling for growth and continually need to grind to only to make ends meet. These stories and continued experiences continue to expose me to the harsh realities Moldova offers. It is sad and my frustration is not necessarily in the people I encounter but in the unjust environment and conditions they are forced to live in.

– I asked my partner why he never left Moldova. He is incredibly bright, motivated, helpful, and respected and could earn a much higher salary elsewhere. He told me he just could not. This is his home. He is very economical with his earnings. He turns the gas off at his apartment often, kills the lights after certain hours, and eats just enough to get him full. The main purpose: he loves his family. He wants to remain in his country with his wife and son. I get that. He mentioned many more unqualified people make more than him by going abroad and working in sub-standard conditions. He mentioned some men are corrupt to make a better life. Women even sell themselves in more developed countries to get by. He does not want to join them. He wants to set the example here in Leova. He is the type of leader that others must replicate or follow for Moldova to move forward.

– For the first time this afternoon the idea of complete failure for our business came to mind. Even if we manage each firm perfectly, fill all 20 offices with 20 motivated owners, acquire capital for them, and provide trainings to improve their skills, the disposable income in Moldovans’ pockets is still incredibly insufficient. The majority of our companies offer the same products and services already existent in Leova. This saturates the market and does not help to increase the local economy, rather it disperses the earnings amongst various providers. The scope of each project needs to be fixed on exporting products outside of the city and country. New wealth and outside investment must be injected into Moldova in order to see increases in standard of living. It is easier said than done. I do not know all of which they are up against when it comes to political and economic limitations and laws. It is just unfortunate that I feel that even if my partner and I do all we can to teach them certain skills, it still will not be enough. It leads me to believe that my priorities as a volunteer need to change. I need to expose as many individuals as possible to all of the resources in my arsenal and instill confidence in others to become change agents for their community. Older people are harder to reach, therefore the focus will be on the youth.

* Any ideas expressed here were not meant to be hurtful or make light of the situation Moldovans currently face. It is one foreigner’s perspective. I do not know the half of what goes on in this country in public and behind closed doors. My interpretation of the culture and comprehension of what I have heard are a bit skewed. I observe, I ask, I listen, I write. That’s it.

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