Volunteering during a pandemicDec 1, 2020
In early 2020, my work as an EU Aid Volunteer (EUAV) in Moldova was progressing smoothly and successfully when it was suddenly derailed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like so many others around the world, I was forced into lockdown and experienced something completely new and unexpected. The daily routine of going to the office, having a coffee with colleagues, meeting partners, and visiting beneficiaries was replaced by remote working. In other words, I was alone and locked in my apartment for the entire day.
Things were tough at the beginning, but I quickly found a new balance, and thanks to the collaborative nature of the team, we soon realized that it was possible to improve people’s lives even under lockdown. Skype and Microsoft Teams replaced physical meetings, while Zoom and other webinar tools were identified as efficient alternatives for in-person training.
Today, I am coordinating a project for supporting small- and medium-sized enterprises in the north of Moldova. During the first semester of the year, I helped the project team plan a grant competition for residents of local business incubators. In March, we organized an online mentorship programme intended to provide participants with the necessary skills to submit quality proposals. After launching the competition online, we received 20 proposals for funding within a few weeks. The selection committee met on Skype and evaluated all the proposals. Some of them were very good, particularly those submitted by mentorship programme participants. On 1 June, we awarded four grants, achieving a great result even during lockdown.
As is always the case during emergencies, quick reaction was the key to our success. I was glad to see how immediate PIN and various donors reacted to the COVID-19 crisis, and I was proud to be a part of the process.
In addition to the grant project, we also we applied to calls for proposals from the Czech Ministry of Foreign affairs and the European Union, including proposals for COVID-19-response projects, support for people with disabilities, and capacity building for civil society organisations. Once again, thanks to the collaboration and teamwork of the entire staff, we were awarded both projects and are now involved in their implementation.
As a EUAV in Moldova, I learned first-hand how an NGO acts during an emergency, valuable insights I will carry with me throughout my career. But most important, I realized the key to successful projects is engaging the entire society in solutions, something not even a pandemic can prevent from happening.