Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Never Coming Back

While watching the Travel Channel the other day, I was reminded of Michael Palin's New Europe, a series about the new EU states and their neighbours, which aired a few years ago on the BBC. I remember watching with interest about what he had to say about Romania and of course, there was the section about the People's Palace in Bucharest, which explained about the terrible things that Nicolae Ceausescu did to his people during Communism. But I also remembered that the episode started in Moldova, just a skip across the border from Romania. Now that I'm here, I wanted to watch it again but was unable to find a full version of the episode. In fact, the only thing I could find on Youtube was this small snippet which I watched with interest and shock.

Today, I've been doing some research online about organisations who we can approach for funding here in Moldova and I've also read about other NGO's here in Chisinau. I keep finding pages about the situation surrounding human trafficking here in Moldova and came across this article from The Scotsman in 2006. Statistics say that almost 80% of women between the ages of 16 and 36 in rural Moldova are missing, most having been forced into prostitution abroad and have no chance of escape. These figures are impossible to substantiate however I have read a few more articles about this scandal and it appears that the authorities are not interested. Indeed, even police, border guards and governmental officials profit from this business which is worth $30 billion per year. This weekend, the national elections take place in Moldova and the people are hopeful that they will have a stable government for the first time in 18 months and for the first time in decades, a government free from Communist influence. Let's also hope that the eradication of human trafficking is high on the agenda of the successful party and candidate. It's impossible to imagine how it must feel for these women and children who are subjected to this sort of deceit and treatment but I am thankful that girls like Olga, described above, are helped by those kind enough to risk everything to assist. But these numbers are few and far between. I came across this poster which has the tagline 'Tu nu esti Marfa' which basically translates as 'You are not merchandise'. It says it all.

On the day when we hear about what's going on in New Zealand, North and South Korea and Cambodia, this article reminded me how blessed and lucky some of us are.

For more information on this horrific subject, you can read more here

Friday, November 19, 2010



This week we had our first event that I have been involved in since coming to Chisinau, the Angelus Moldova Winter Social Networking lunch. We held the event at Marius Restaurant, a really cozy little place in the town centre, and invited our supporters, our board of trustees, other NGO's and local dignitaries and business people.

Marius Restaurant initially seemed really responsive and were pleased to host our event, but as we went on they became less co-operative and kept adding on new costs. Indeed, on the morning of our event, the manager called us to tell us we would have to pay for the waiting staff too. Needless to say, Marius Restaurant will not be receiving another lei from us ever again as their service was rubbish. Idiots.

We couldn't have asked for a better event though. We had some really great guests including the British Ambassador to Moldova, the Moldovan Prime Minister's wife, and Moldovan Eurovision star (and my new best pal), Geta Burlacu. The team from the Hospice were brilliant and the guests could not have been more receptive. The event was sponsored by Purcari Wineries, one of the best Moldovan wine manufacturers whose fans include our own Queen. I'm having a visit to the vineyard in a couple of weeks so when you lot come over, I'll have one place ticked off to take you. YUM!

Here's a selection of some pics from the event:

Our UK partner director, Graham Perolls speaks while others including the UK Ambassador (from Edinburgh - top lad), Victoria Condrat (our volunteer) and others look on

Our PR Manager, Irina looks on next to our Moldovan Director, Valeriu Isac and the PM's wife, Sanda Filat (in the red shoes)

Me and Geta Burlacu. I now love this woman. You can tell by the exciteable look on my face.

A photo all over Chisinau apparently advertising a play about Rene from 'Allo 'Allo and Sybil Fawlty

This is a blue phone I found in a hotel. I'm not sure who you can ring from it. Batman? This has nothing to do with our networking lunch but thought it quite retro anyway.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Danger Zone

So after a month here in Moldova I've found out some pretty interesting facts about the place. It really is a unique country and I wanted to share these fascinating points of non-fiction with you.

1. Chisinau has the largest cemetery in Europe It's true. I've been. In fact when I came to visit in August, we visited the graveyard with my boss and his wife. It's massive and has different sectors including a Jewish sector, a Muslim sector and a sector for Soviet war graves. Many of the older graves are in Russian only but the most recent graves are in Romanian. In fact, there are pictures on most graves of those who have passed but weirdly, on some gravestones there are pictures of those who are not dead yet. For example, Mrs Petrescu's husband might have carked it, but she is still alive, yet her picture is already on the gravestone and the grave is lying waiting for her. Surely for her it must be a bit strange to see her face already on the gravestone when she visits Mr Petrescu. 

2. Chisinau is one of the greenest capitals in Europe Yep, we have many parks throughout the city and the main throughfare, St Stephen The Great Street, is lined with large oak trees. Central Park, on St Stephen The Great, is beautiful at the moment. Leaves have fallen and the trees are bare but it's peaceful yet full of people playing petanque, skateboarding and old men sitting around enjoying a game of chess. Here are a couple of pictures I took of St Stephen The Great Street and Central Park at the weekend.

3. Moldova has the largest wine cellars in the world This is my kind of fact. The wine cellars at Milestii Mici sport 160 miles of tunnels where about half are used to store wine. The second and third largest wine cellars in the world are also in Moldova. You can even drive your car down into the tunnels

4. Moldova has the highest rate in the world of death by powered lawnmower I'm not making this up

5. Living in Chisinau, I am in closer proximity to Baghdad than I am to Perth By about 150 miles

Any more for any more?

Thursday, November 11, 2010


 Feed Me

Since arriving in Moldova, I've seen that they are really creative in their culinary skills. There are McDonald's, but why go there when you have some of the best restaurants in Europe which serve the most outlandish and creative dishes? One of the best things they serve here is sarmale which is vine or cabbage leaves stuffed with rice and meat. Smother it with sour cream and man, it's good.

Most days, the office staff head to a local restaurant, Sturdy Sausages, for lunch and we get something great to eat and it's usually very inventive and tasty. And at £1.80 for two courses, it's not to be sniffed at. But today, well, we got something I wasn't expecting. Porridge and pork. Yes, together. With a tomato sauce. I am sorry to say that Sturdy Sausages let us down big style. And I'm still hungry.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Hora Din Moldova

This is the entrance to the city of Chisinau (pronounced Keesh-ee-now), the capital of Europe's poorest country, Moldova. Moldova is sandwiched in between Romania (a member of the European Union since 2007) and the Ukraine (Europe's largest country with the exception of Russia).

Moldova used to be known as the Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldova until it declared itself independent in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The official language here is Romanian, however Russian is still prominent and is still part of everyday life here in Moldova. In fact, there is a region in the east of Moldova, called Transnistria, which declared itself independent of Moldova in 1992. You need your passport to enter Transnistria if you are a foreigner and it is described as 'the closest you will get to a living example of Soviet Union life on earth'. They only speak Russian there and they really want to be part of Russia again. It's a very contentious issue as the Moldovans don't want to let it go. It won't be resolved in the near future but it's a big factor regarding Moldova's accession to the European Union.

I came to Moldova on October 13 2010 as Country Manager for Hospices of Hope, a UK based charity which establishes and supports Hospices throughout Eastern Europe. Hospice Casa Sperantei is one of the top 3 charities in Romania and has been established for 17 years. They have a working hospice in the mountain city of Brasov and also work out of Romania's capital city, Bucharest, where they visit patients at home to provide them with palliative care. According to the World Health Organisation, palliative care is:

'an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual'. 


In Chisinau, Hospices of Hope works with Hospice Angelus Moldova, a charitable foundation based in Chisinau, and I have come here to help the charity become sustainable by gaining support from local businesses and government agencies. Since 2000, Hospice Angelus has worked with almost 1000 patients and provided them with the care that they need to ensure that they suffer the least possible amount of pain in their last few months, weeks or days. In Moldova, once you are diagnosed as terminal and the hospital decides that they cannot assist you anymore, they send you home to die. We get most of our referrals from these hospitals and we provide FREE home care to those we can help. Our medical staff visit adults and children around Chisinau every day and we have recently started a project in a couple of rural areas of Moldova. 

We already have some high profile supporters but we are always needing more help. Another thing I would like to do is to get support from my friends and family in the UK and around the world through fundraising events that YOU can stage. Your time, dedication and help will be appreciated and you can follow our fundraising events by visiting our Facebook page here and when you get there, click 'Like'.

Thanks for joining me on the blog. I already have lots to tell about this brilliant country and the work I have already been privileged to be involved in but that can wait. I will post again soon.