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VolunTourism in Moldova?
Our “3-Q’s” for this month were answered by Ann Merrill, a current Peace Corps volunteer. Here is what she had to say in answer to our questions:
1. How do you think VolunTourism can be used as a means to draw people to Moldova?
Moldova could be supported by VolunTourism simply because there is great social need. But there is the additional fact that little development, if any, in the area of tourism has occurred in the region.
The biggest challenge that Moldova faces is the fact that the population became dependent on the social infrastructure of the Soviet Union. With the dissolution of the USSR, the question is who, now, has the responsibility of making changes and improvements to social infrastructure?
This question may or may not have been brought forward at the time that the Soviet Union once more became a series of states. Social infrastructure, and how to re-establish its fundamental implementation at the local level, is a process into which VolunTourism could be integrated.
The region has not traditionally had a tourism draw, but by incorporating voluntary service projects, and the fact that this region is part of what used to be the Soviet Union, it is possible that VolunTourism could make a difference in Moldova.
2. What are the social challenges that VolunTourism could address in the region?
Ethnicities make it challenging to address the social issues that are present in the region. The various languages and dialects that have developed over time create rifts and cultural clashes between those that speak, for example, Russian, and those that speak Moldovan or Romanian. This would need to be addressed, of course.
Roads and infrastructure are the primary challenges that require attention in the region. Lack of running water, little or no access to electricity and natural gas in some areas, and minimal telephone service - all complicate the issue.
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3. What tourism treasures await VolunTourists in Moldova?
From the Peace Corps Website:
Strategically located at the crossroads of central, southeastern, and eastern Europe, the Republic of Moldova is the second smallest of the Newly Independent States. Situated along the Danube, Prut, and Nistru rivers, Moldova occupies 13,000 square miles and has a population of approximately 4.4 million. The country borders Romania in the west and Ukraine in the east and south. Its central region, the Basarabian Plateau, consists of forested highlands (up to 1,300 feet in elevation) and is known as the Codru. Most Volunteers easily adjust to Moldova'geographic environment.
Moldova is relatively small, with a population of roughly 4 million people. The people are warm, friendly, and very open to visitors - at least they have been to me during my time in the area.
Moldova has ancient monasteries, caves, and a remarkable history. Gagauzian people have lived in the region since the Ottoman Empire. They speak their own language and are primarily Christian.
Moldova was the primary food source for the former Soviet Union. The economy is primarily agricultural based. There are beautiful lush farms, the sunflower season is magnificent (early August), small forests pepper the landscape between farms.
The people of moldova are resourceful and utilize the land to the greatest degree possible. Cash poor and land rich they have all of the amenities they need to supply themselves with food and basic necessities. Barter and trade is still incorporated into the economy.
Ann Merrill has been a Peace Corps volunteer since September 2004. She graduated from the Ohio State University (OSU) with a bachelors degree in Russian Langauge Studies and received her master's degree in English as a Second Language. For the ten years following her graduation, she worked for OSU and for a portion of that time developed service learning abroad programs for students.
She has recently been selected by United Nations Volunteers (UNV) to fill a position in Kiev. Her title will be Community Development Specialist for the Chernobyl Recovery & Development Program. Her task will be to train Ukrainian Grassroots Development volunteers.
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