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November 2017
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Religious Youth Service

Religious Youth Service Project Helps Elderly in Ialoveni, Moldova

Ialoveni, Moldova - A Religious Youth Service project on the theme of “Youth of Faith Build Peace by Practice of Love and Service” was held on August 5-12 in Ialoveni, a city in located 10 kilometers south of the capital city of Chisinau.

It was our long-cherished dream to host an RYS project on the foundation of religious leaders we contacted during various UPF events since 2005.

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This was the first RYS project in Moldova. It wasn’t easy to mobilize people to commit themselves for eight days. This is more challenging than to attend a conference or round-table discussion. Nevertheless, 14 participants from Moldova, Russia, the United States, and Uzbekistan came together to live and work as an interfaith and international community; they represented the Moldovan Orthodox, Baptist, and Mormon Churches as well as Islam and the Unification faith. Trainings, presentations, readings, group discussions, work activities, visits, sightseeing, reflection, and spiritual practices combined to provide insights into the culture, life, and faith of the people of Moldova.

Participants learned about unique elements of RYS and experienced with all their spiritual and physical senses the spirit of being “One family under God.” During the entire project, volunteers sincerely practiced their common belief that “Change starts with me, we are the change, and with each small step our dreams become more true and real.”

For the first three days, the main activity was cleaning at the Geriatric Services Center in the village of Vasieni, located in Ialoveni region. Indeed, working together and overcoming challenges of 37-40 degree Celsius summer heat built invisible bonds of friendship and mutual support. Volunteers also participated in ecological activities in the park near Vasieni. The Geriatric Center staff and beneficiaries were very surprised and moved  by the fact that such a diverse group could come together and work with unprecedented enthusiasm and dedication. After the project, the director of the NGO ACASA, Mrs. Felicia Cretu, shared with the volunteers her vision about this Geriatric Services Center and expressed her gratitude for the help we provided. She shared with us very moving and sad stories of old people who raised many children but ended up being forgotten and lonely.

We had a special friend that worked with us all day long, a five-year old horse called “Star”; she carried all the trash to the nearby dumpster.

On the fourth day, after three intensive work days, we had a more relaxed morning schedule, and each volunteer had the opportunity in their life to ride a horse. Afterwards, we climbed the hill nearby and found the scenery breathtaking; it felt like a blessed place, and words of gratitude flowed from our hearts to heaven. In this genuine communication with creation volunteers could experience the love of our Creator God.

We visited a synagogue, a mosque, an Orthodox church, a Lutheran church, a Catholic church, and a Mormon church to learn from their religious leaders about the relevance of a religious life, religious traditions, and the impact that people of all faiths are making in peacebuilding.

Volunteers also visited Orheiul Vechi, the most ancient holy site of Moldova, with its unique stone carved Orthodox church and monastery and impressive picturesque scenery of the Raut River that has been carving its way for thousands of years into the bedrock of the ancient Sarmatic Sea (of which the Black Sea is a remnant). Hidden in its banks is a rich archeological heritage dating from the 3rd century AD to the occupation of the Golden Horde in the 14th century. It is a testimony of the very active spiritual, social, cultural, economic life in the area through the centuries.

The educational program was organized to provide experiential learning and to stimulate thought in the following realms: insight into world religions, education for global citizenship (conflict prevention and resolution, promoting a culture of peace), and becoming peace builders.

Throughout the program, many volunteers expanded their understanding of themselves and others and gained experience as "Youth Ambassadors for Peace." In their commitment letters on the final day, they expressed determination to organize peace-promoting activities with diverse people in the future.

On the sixth day of the project, volunteers met representatives of the local administration of the Ialoveni region and the Department of Family and Social Assistance connected with the Geriatric Center in Vasieni. Mr. Gore, who works with many NGOs and churches to connect resources with people in need, described the increasing demands and challenges of unprivileged elders and children from broken families. We shared with him about the vision of RYS.

This first project was small, but it has big potential for growth and transformation in the future. Each volunteer gained confidence and inherited the dream of one family under God!

In the village and every holy site we visited during the program, RYS volunteers planted seeds that have the potential to transform local communities into communities of peace and uplift a culture of service. Volunteers also gained experiences which will be helpful in their daily life as well as in their professional activities.

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