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Moldova: Young People Breathing Life Into Village --> Chiscareni By Elena Cioina

Chiscareni, Moldova; 12 August 2005 (RFE/RL) -- If an encyclopedia of rural settlements was published today, it would describe Chiscareni as a village that enjoys the services of a local radio station, cable TV, and water and sewerage utilities. There are 12 NGOs operating in the village, and several computer classrooms.

It's young people who are breathing life into the monotonous existence of Chiscareni residents.

Doinita Betivu is a member of a group of leaders from the Adolescentul NGO, who have realized the power of good ideas. "I participated in a project called 'Promotion of Youths' Ideas,' which I won, and then I decided to create an NGO and work further," Betivu says.

The first $600 the teenagers collected they decided to spend on constructing a parking place for bicycles at school. It's a simple parking lot, but one which is rarely seen, even in the capital. The project addressed the problem of students who must travel several kilometers to school from neighboring villages.

"There is a problem with the transportation, and they find it easier to take a bike to reach the school, to leave the bike at the parking area, and pay just half a leu a day, which is a symbolic price. This money is used to buy flowers for the school, so the earnings are invested," Betivu says.

And then a more ambitious project followed.

"It is a project of two settlements, Chiscareni and the town of Dubasari in Transdniester, where we had to meet young people who lived here and there. During the project, we organized a seminar to teach students at a Russian-language school, and we discussed our many problems. There is a problem of understanding, the language problem. We who speak Romanian don't want to speak Russian, and vice versa. And we finally decided to respect each other," says Cristina Garbu, who works for an NGO called the Local Council of Children and Youths.
"There is a problem of understanding, the language problem. We who speak Romanian don't want to speak Russian, and vice versa. And we finally decided to respect each other." - Cristina Garbu

Meanwhile, the children collected money for other projects. They succeeded in redecorating some rooms for computer-related activities, and to buy equipment for a discotheque. Local schoolchildren performed remarkably well at a regional contest called "Odyssey of the Mind." The team from Chiscareni won second place and qualified for the finals, held in the United States.

The energy of the adolescents encouraged local councilors to maintain the momentum. Local authorities renovated the aqueduct, then a portion of a road leading toward the church and the cemetery. And now they have committed themselves to repairing a summer camp for children just outside the village. Later, they say they intend to approve a project launched by the Nicolae Caso High School that envisages the installation of a system that burns hay and wood to heat the building.

The most successful project, however, is undoubtedly the local radio station, which appeared six years ago, and the cable TV station, which rebroadcasts eight channels.

"We are actually the first radio station of local significance in the post-Soviet period," says Viorica Gobjila, the art director of the Chiscareni radio station. "Every day, except for Saturdays and Sundays, we are producing our own programs, which are broadcast at 8 p.m. On Mondays, we have for years run a program called 'Cuvantul Domnului' (Word of the Lord). On the same day, the [Chiscareni] mayoralty is given time, and residents are made aware of what is going on in the village or who is visiting us. There is also a thematic program reflecting the work of the police."

The "Licurici" program is a favorite among children in Chiscareni. The host of this program, Liduta Goras, is a sixth-grade student. "We run several themes," he says. "For example, 'Nature, A Doctor For Everyone,' 'Micro-Encyclopedia,' 'Horoscope,' 'Ghenar's Brothers,' golden fairy tales, and an entertainment hour."

The program director, Stefanel Goras, is just 9 years old. "I like turning it louder and then quieter," he says. "When they speak, I turn on a background and make it quiet, or louder when they sing."

Most adults prefer listening to the announcements and musical dedications. "We listen to all the announcements, such as what has been stolen, where to report such incidents, what dedications are broadcast," says Pavel Secureanu, a local resident and radio listener. "As for me, I want to send greetings to my neighbor, or to my kids, or my wife, so I go to pay five lei and then I enjoy the dedication."

The official records of the Chiscareni mayoralty count 6,000 residents. Approximately 450 of them work in local farm associations, a similar number of locals are employed in occasional work, and at least 500 work abroad.

Most of the teens who have suffered the unfortunate experience of being separated from their parents, who are working abroad, are determined to change this state of things, to avoid the need to wander to seek a better life.

(This story was originally broadcast by RFE/RL Romania-Moldova Service, and was a finalist for RFE/RL's June 2005 Division of Broadcasting Innovation Excellence award for the "best story on youth at a crossroads.")

According to research by the Asian Development Bank and UNICEF, there are now more than 70,000 school-age children in Kyrgyzstan working to earn money for their families instead of attending school. RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service correspondent Jannat Toktosunova went to the Osh Bazaar in Bishkek to meet some of these children:

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