Friday, April 17, 2009
The project is with the company Calendula-Oil headquartered in Holland being financed with VC funding. The quick and dirty on it is it a partnered company between an agriculture college and a business consulting firm using oil from Marigolds in paint. After some extensive studies on behalf of the EU about 10 years ago they had concluded that the oil pressed from marigolds can be very useful in strengthening the properties in paint which pass on these advantages to wood products. This allows abundant wood from trees available locally to have the strength of trees in the Rain Forest.
After talking with a college of mine who had done some work trying to gain awareness for the possibility of growing Calendula in Moldova I became instantly interested. He ran into some dead ends and he gladly handed it off to me. I continued to address the opportunities for their company to grow this crop in Moldova. After some back and forth through email and some information searching on my organizations part here we managed to get them to come to Moldova for a visit. The visit was a success and we are planting 6 test plots through out Moldova to educate the farmers in Moldova on the crop.
The company is paying for the demonstration plots and paying the farmers for their harvests at the end of the season. My organization is also getting paid to do the consulting to the farmers and organizing field visits. The plan is to grow from 6 hectares this year to 30 next year and if things go smoothly up to 300 in year 3.
The benefit to the farmers in Moldova is that this crop is a great rotational crop to be rotated with Rapeseed, Wheat, and Corn. They farmers get a upfront set price at the beginning of the season so that they will know how much they will receive at harvest time eliminating the risk of going bust at the end of the season if there is no market for their product.
I am pretty excited about this project and the success I hope my organization will have after I leave.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Update… it’s the 15th of march and I am inching my way closer to being done here in Moldova. In a way that’s scary, and in another way entirely its really exciting.
My life for better or worse hasn’t changed all that much. I guess I have fallen into a routine where I have accepted my experience this far and have come to realize it is not going to be that much different here on out. I came with some hopes, and plans, and reality slapped me in the face.
That has been a bitter pill to swallow. So after wallowing in self pity, taking my frustrations out on the world for a little bit there, I am coming to grips with it all. I am content in where I am. I am content on where I am going, and I have a plan for the future that is concrete enough that I can look forward to it.
My day to day is still the same. I do not have as big as smile or as upbeat an attitude as I did when I first was going to work but that will come back as I continue to realize where I am. My role here at my work has been anything but clear. I don’t know what I can get out of my workplace and don’t know what I can put into it that will make any type of lasting difference.
I have done several seminars in a village 7 hours south of where I live on business basics with regards to starting a business. I gave 3 seminars from what it takes to be an entrepreneur to how to write a business plan followed by a seminar on marketing.
It was fun and stressful putting together those presentations. Building my subject matter from a variety of sources and throwing them into a power point slide and then giving the seminars. This is all in Romanian of course. I felt stupid up there the first time because it was really hard for me to feel comfortable up there teaching 18 or so local villagers in my un correct Romanian but I made it interactive enough so I was the pressure was not entirely on my to carry the show.
All in all doing those seminars gave me a solid month of work to do. I would prepare the seminar the whole week then Saturday I would give the presentation. This went on 3 weeks straight and I was happy when they were all over.
Apart from those seminars I have been continued developing a business plan for this couple who are wanting to expand their pasta factory from their house into a larger building upping their capacity to keep up with demand. I have been having a fun time building up a pro forma, estimating our costs and possible revenue numbers. It is what I did in college and something I really enjoy doing.
With a little encouragement we have performed a little market study by handing out some surveys to the local population to get their thoughts on our product and hosted a taste testing session where locals could try our product against 2 of our closest competitors. The idea of being an unbiased survey didn’t really click in as we had the founders of this company doing the taste test as well and filling out the questionnaire. I just kindly asked them to put their names on the paper so I could exclude their opinions on the matter.
I hope to have this plan completed by the end of this month. We have a few places to send the plan to with the hopes of them assisting with the startup costs. We are having the business contribute a percentage of its profit to this NGO to keep it sustainable and by doing so we hope to get some percentage of a grant element to be included with the credit we are going to take out.
Finally what I have been keeping myself busy with is still the Calendula Oil company. My partners I am working with are really getting excited about this idea and some new developments have come about. We have received more interested letters from this company asking for more information from us and responding to our questions. If all goes well we might even open up a processing plant to process Calendula (marigold flowers) into oil. This opportunity needs to be analyzed some more, and we hope to have a few members of this company in Holland come down to Moldova for a face to face meeting.
So I have been having things to do. But my days have been filled with ups and downs never the less. I guess the biggest strain is still going to work and living in the town that I do. I really have been a loss in what I can do here. I look forward to next month so I can begin working in the fields again with my partner. We are going to be working in his plumb orchard and at his lake as well. He decided to invest in some land next to a lake that he has rented the rights to and with that land he is going to be raising fish… (growing fish? I dunno). I am not completely versed on how this will all work but we are going to dig about a hectare of land up next to the lake making a pond for this.
I had a man come into the office this last week and really make me angry. I held my tongue but it really got to me. He is the leader of this organization Agro Inform. It is basically the same organization as the one that I work at (an agro extension office) . He comes in and the first thing he does is say,
hey kyle your language seems to not be that good.
I say ok…
then he says have you written any grants?
I respond with no.
he pushes me more, why not? I remember this volunteer that was here 3 years ago that wrote 3 grants in his first year, why don’t’ you do that, don’t you want to help people?
I tell him I didn’t come here to write grants, and secondly I am working on some business plans involving credit.
He pushes me again about well if its free money why don’t’ I just get that, how im stupid for going after credit when I can have free money.,
I explained its not free money, you have to have a project and you have to be serving some type of purpose and I have not been presented with an opportunity that I feel fits those criteria for a grant.
He just kinda has this smirk on his face and says well whatever, if I don’t want to do anything that’s my decision.
I wanted to hit him in the face and scream at him! This is exactly what I hate about this whole situation here. This grant hunger from everybody here. Moldova gets so much free money for bull crap projects that require no sustainability and its poisoning the people. They all just want handouts and they are not willing to put in the effort. ( I realize I just made a strong statement, I recall ALL from that statement because there are plenty of examples that prove the opposite, it is just the vast majority who work in NGO settings are guilty of this).
So I sit in my office for a little more then leave pissed off at life and my situation here. I was ready to never go back to work again. I plan on going back tomorrow of course, to sit at my desk and work on my business plans, helping with some computer problems that come up throughout the day while I keep myself busy. CONTENT! BE CONTENT WITH THAT!.... so I struggle.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
So I took a vacation this winter. I went to Turkey and I was there for 12 days. I went with some other volunteers and overall had a good time. The biggest downside to the trip was the weather. Nearly everyday we were there it rained. It was cold and gloomy but we still made the best of it and saw what we wanted to see.
The trip started with 6 days in Istanbul the final night there ended with New Years. The celebration in Turkey was supposed to be really huge but given the circumstances with the Gaza strip the Turkish government canceled the celebrations in the center square. They had already removed all the trashcans on the street for fear someone would put a bomb in them.
After Istanbul Phil and I took a trip to the middle of turkey in the area of Anatolia to see some caves and rock formations. From there we went to the more western region passing through a place called Pammukale and Heriopolis. There we saw some natural hot springs that was formed in these salt rocks making for a spectacular site. Not only that but Heriopolis had ancient Roman ruins so we were able to just walk freely through this massive field that used to be a city.
Our last stop was this place called Selchuk (I spelled it how it sounds) where we saw the famous Efisus which is another ancient Roman city. There we also did some tours seeing the acclaimed Virgin Mary’s house where she fled with Jon the Baptist after Jesus was killed. After seeing such a site what better place to go then to a fashion show and participate.
All in all the trip was fun, I just wish the weather would have cooperated with us a little more. In Anatolia the temperature was around -12 degrees Celsius and all I had was a fleece and a hoody. And the rain was barely kept off with $2 umbrellas that I had to keep buying because they would break at the slightest wind gust.
Its February 1st. My time here is going by rather quickly. I am more in a reflection mood then anything else here. I have a few projects that have the possibility of going somewhere or nowhere at all. Lots of potential but in all actuality none of them could pan out and that Is just how things go.
I miss America. I miss my family and my friends. That’s all.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
September 9th, 2007
A: The professional attributes that you plan to use, and what aspirations you hope to fulfill, during your Peace Corps service.
After reviewing the VAD I feel that I will be able to use my experience at the Enterprise Center that I am currently working at to help local entrepreneurs raise funding they need to get started. I understand the financial markets will be different but the fundamental strategy of taking an idea from the concept stage to a commercial stage is a critical attribute that I possess.
I really would just like to hopefully help anyone commercialize an idea so that they can provide for their family and learn along in the process. I hope to take on side projects which involve taking an idea and do cost and revenue projections to see weather the idea has any validity.
B: Your strategies for working effectively with host country partners to meet expressed needs.
I think the biggest key to success in working with host country partners is open mindedness. I will be a participant in their activities, learning their culture and their way of things before jumping into a leadership role. I am very much a student to their lives as they will be to what I will be teaching them.
C: Your strategies for adapting to a new culture with respect to your own cultural background.
Open mindedness is a large part of adaptation. I am going into this with little to no expectations of it being easy or hard. Without expectations it is hard to be disappointed or disgruntled. I will exercise respect for everyone I meet and I will attempt to show compassion and dedication in every activity I take on. I will gain their respect through exhaustive language studies and hard work outside of my normal job.
D: The skills and knowledge you hope to gain during pre-service training to best serve your future community and project.
I hope to learn ways of raising capital in their country. From my studies I understand it is hard to obtain capital. I hope to learn why the agricultural market is so risk averse, and how to overcome this obstacle.
E: How you think Peace Corps service will influence your personal and professional aspirations after your service ends.
I joined this program to learn compassion for others. I believe this is a skill that has to be taught and experienced and is not an innate aspect to the human race. I hope the experiences I gain through this will give me the confidence to be successful in my future endeavors and enforce putting other first in everything I do in the future.