Sunday, March 06, 2011

Update: Gis for Moldova program

Here's the email I received from Robert McMasters, the former Peace Corps volunteer there who toured Christian around... I solicit your thoughts and suggestions... and thank you everyone who has so generously offered gis, rashies, money and time for this project! Let's keep the momentum going!

"Hey, Georgette!

First of all, thanks for the interest in helping our guys out in the village. Getting new gear and other things to help further development in BJJ in rural Moldova is a great initiative. But I think what we're lacking most of all is a purpose. Getting material things is absolutely great but unless you have something to do with the material goods, there's a good chance that they will just sit in a dusty room most of the time.

When I was there I was able to control things, hold practices, work the bureaucracy and generally get things done. I don't think this is happening to the extent that it was when I was there. They lack a trainer and they lack... purpose. Why should they train in BJJ if they just compete against themselves?

I'm not really sure what you have in mind as far as gis (and obviously by seeing Christian's pictures you can see that we could use them) but I have a feeling that unless we have something that the kids will fight for, the gis will go largely unused unless there arises a need to train. It takes a hell of a lot of initiative to go and train BJJ when it is below freezing outside, and general fitness is not a good enough reason for a lot of people.

I suppose this is my chance to propose a series of different things, and maybe you have some ideas as well:

1) Take the money that could go toward new equipment, and set up a fund for people who want to come and train the team and to train other teams in the area to compete with. They would pay their own way out but I would take them to the various villages and we could train the competitors free of charge, eventually setting up the first rural submission/BJJ competition that has ever been done (can you think of another example because I can't).

2) Cut to the chase and hold a submissions tournament with a cash/material prize (even winning a nice new gi would be cool). This would give Burlacu the initiative to train on their own (with a little help of course). This would only be sustainable if we involved local business people/financiers who would hypothetically continue to fund these kind of competitions in the future. This could take work but I'm willing to try if others are as well.

3) Continue discussing the matter between ourselves and come up with a reasonable conclusion. There are a lot of particularities about the village that we could use to our advantage. There are also things holding us back as well...

Ok, enough of my writing. We will be in touch.

-b"

19 comments:

combatsportsreviewblog said...

Georgette, I was planning a walk-a-bout of Europe for the summer of 2012. I might be able to go help train the kids for a month or two. If a group of us start planning now, we can set something up as a group. Maybe? Just tossing an idea out into the blogsphere...

slideyfoot said...

There is always Gracie Combatives or Bullyproof, which in this situation could be useful. However, I'm not sure if they have access to a DVD player, and it would need an adult, or at least an older kid, to lead the classes.

I haven't thought about going to Moldova, but come to think of it, my gf knows somebody from uni who lives there. So, maybe there is some way I could get over there too? I've got other trips elsewhere planned, but I'll keep that one in mind. :)

combatsportsreviewblog said...

Slidey - Summer 2012 is a little over a year away. Do you think some of us could put something together in that time? Maybe meet up in Bucharest, Romania. Then go on to Moldova from there? I'm just throwing some stuff out there. Does anybody else have any ideas? Does anybody want to go on a BJJ road trip to an unkown country?

slideyfoot said...

I'm probably going to North Cyprus next year, as I already said to these guys I'd go train with them. Most likely I'll go on another holiday too, as my gf is always keen to go abroad: not sure I'd be able to convince her to go to a random village in Moldova for a holiday.

Then again, if she wants to go somewhere else I'm not keen on (like the Canary Islands or somewhere else that is almost entirely about beaches and sunshine rather than culture) with a friend, I could go to Moldova at the same time as you?

Would be very cool to meet other bloggers (Moldova must be cheaper for me to get to than the US, though I haven't checked), especially in the pursuit of a good cause.

combatsportsreviewblog said...

Slidey - Did you say BEACH? I may go on holiday with your gf. I love beaches. ;-) Just kidding around. It would be cool to get together with other bloggers, especially for a good cause. As far as cost, I think food and lodging is similar to Romania (for non-moldovians anyway) The airfare would be a beast from the USA, but with a year to plan, it can be done.

slideyfoot said...

Heh - good stuff. I'm guessing anything you come up with will be on your blog anyway, but in case not, you can always drop me an email here. :)

Tree Frog said...

Robert is very smart.

It may perhaps be a better idea to continue contributing to Hilary Williams' Brazilian project, which already has teachers, purpose and success.

Georgette said...

@TreeFrog-- I think Hillary's program is definitely worth supporting, and of course everyone should do what they can in the direction that their heart leads them.

However, I would note that Brazil already has a program (many, most likely) in place to assist the less fortunate who wish to train BJJ. Moldova apparently does not. So it's hard for me to say it's "better" to contribute to one over the other.... Easier for sure!

Kudoes to Can, Jodi and others who are thinking about making their walkabout contribute to the greater jitsmunity. I will continue to promote the Moldova program... AND the Brazil one! :)

slideyfoot said...

Not to mention that the Brazil program, while worthy, isn't going to result in me meeting cool BJJ bloggers ;p

Ashley said...

Is there any way to gain access to a Brazilian program design to see how they started, how they grew, etc.? Do you think that could be useful?

I could ask Wendell Alexander of Nova Uniao with the help of Google Translator or something. I know he runs a program down there for disadvantaged youth that he speaks fondly of.

I don't see the harm in collecting gis. Wouldn't the kids go to train BJJ because it's fun, empowering, rewarding, and is something to do? I'm sure financial incentives could help build interest, but it still has general appeal, I would think.

Of course this is all being said with pretty much 0 understanding of the context in Moldova, so what do I know.

juliajohansen said...

Okay a few questions:
1. When was he a PCV? He should have access to the Peace Corps Staff and current Peace Corps Volunteers.
2. Is it possible to get the current Peace Corps Volunteers involved? I don't know about the Moldova projects, but one of the ones Ukraine had was a Youth Development program, and they helped promote Healthy Lifestyles as well. I also wonder if they have a Healthy Lifestyles group as we did in Ukraine.

I would recommend sending an email to the Moldova Peace Corps office so they can forward it to their volunteers and let them know you are interested in supporting this and finding out if any current volunteers are interested.

I also agree that rural villages have a hard time with motivation--I saw it in Ukraine, too. There was the feeling that you shouldn't even try if all you will do is fail. Better to be realistic than have hope and not succeed. Sad and defeating. :(

I did some grants for PCUkraine and one of the things in there was having people responsible for the equipment/items. Also (sad to say) the threat of taking them back. So it's possible to give them with a caveat. Sometimes people in the rural villages just WANT them for bragging rights and will never use them (such as with some of the libraries the PCVs started), so if there is some kind of clause that you might take them back if XYZ happened it helps prevent some corruption. Often officials were very corrupt and would keep things for themselves.

Good luck to you. I'm interested in hearing how this turns out.

Bobby and Amanda said...

Hey folks, I am just now checking out the comments on this page so I will comment on a bunch at once...

To Ashley, there's definitely no problem with collecting gis. I just don't want them to "go missing" a few months down the road because there's nobody to keep an eye on them and I don't want them to just sit on a shelf, collecting dust either.

I wish the kids would go train BJJ because it's fun and all that but they don't, and they haven't done this regularly or even semi-regularly for some time. Unfortunately it's hard to motivate the adults to do something extra (open the gym, supervise the kids, etc.). Really, the only incentive they have is to win something or else there's no purpose.

To Julia, it's definitely a great idea to contact PC staff/volunteers, and if it seems like people are serious about this then I have some ideas about that as well; if another volunteer could get a program started then the programs could have some competitions with each other. The trick is finding a volunteer who knows and is motivated enough to get a program started.

Definitely the "threat" of taking equipment back is a good idea too. Good ideas, guys!

Bobby and Amanda said...

Hey folks, I am just now checking out the comments on this page so I will comment on a bunch at once...

To Ashley, there's definitely no problem with collecting gis. I just don't want them to "go missing" a few months down the road because there's nobody to keep an eye on them and I don't want them to just sit on a shelf, collecting dust either.

I wish the kids would go train BJJ because it's fun and all that but they don't, and they haven't done this regularly or even semi-regularly for some time. Unfortunately it's hard to motivate the adults to do something extra (open the gym, supervise the kids, etc.). Really, the only incentive they have is to win something or else there's no purpose.

To Julia, it's definitely a great idea to contact PC staff/volunteers, and if it seems like people are serious about this then I have some ideas about that as well; if another volunteer could get a program started then the programs could have some competitions with each other. The trick is finding a volunteer who knows and is motivated enough to get a program started.

Definitely the "threat" of taking equipment back is a good idea too. Good ideas, guys!

slideyfoot said...

Good point: there is a brilliant BJJ charity here in England that would be worth contacting too, Future Champions. I've seen the main instructor, Jamie Hussein, in action: he's amazing at teaching kids. Really motivates them, which is also true of Felipe and Eamonn from BJJ School itself.

If I was going to send someone to plant the seed of BJJ in Moldova, and make sure that the kids were so excited about it that they kept training even without someone always there to push them, it would be Jamie.

combatsportsreviewblog said...

I like where this conversation is going. I was looking forward to hearing from Julia. I know she's been in the general region and understands how things work there. Her knowledge will be very helpful. I like her idea about contacting the Peace Corp volunteer system.
Bobby has good points about the multiple school approach. And the fact that there needs to be an ongoing factor. Say, if BJJers from around the world go say once a year, to teach for say a week and hold a tournament at the end. It may create some incentive for the people to invest in BJJ. Community officials, parents and kids.
I like the idea of researching existing programs. If a reproducable program could be initiated in Moldova, then it could be taken to other places as well, including here at home.
Another factor that may need to be looked into is a charity tax ID. I did some fund raising in college. The program I worked with had a charity tax ID. As soon as I produced that number, companies would "cough up" what ever I needed. They would then take the donation off of their taxes. This would be useful in getting BJJ school systems and BJJ supply companies involved.
With Georgette's legal back groud, passion for BJJ, and "defeat any advisary" attitude, I think she would be great at organizing such a thing. However, there are time demands for such a big project, that she alone may not be able to manage.
I like what Slidey said about getting together with other BJJers from around the world. I think that in itself would be rewarding and enjoyable.

Bobby and Amanda said...

To all my Moldova BJJ enthusiasts, first of all thanks for all the good ideas. You have inspired me to ask around and try and do some networking based on peoples' ideas. I must apologize because this will be a long post and I know that long posts can be a pain in the ass to read but please bear wtih me.

First of all, I don't want to dissuade people who are super-busy and all they can do is donate gis or money. This is absolutely essential so just so you know, I totally understand and we can definitely use this kind of help.

I talked with the guy who runs the BJJ gym here in Bucharest (Tudor Mihaita, www.absoluto.ro) and he says he should be able to get a team of kids from a city near the Moldovan border to compete with our small upstart of a team in Burlacu.

For those of you wanting to donate gis, I will have an address to send them to in a little while. As far as money goes, I am still undecided. I think that there will be a good use for money but I don't know how much or how to get it here so I am still looking for good suggestions.

I can also almost guarantee that if/when we get gis, I can put them in a place in the village where they will be both accessable and free from thieves. I'm about 95% certain that I can either convince the gym teacher to keep them in his office or to buy a new lock for the "equipment room", and only give 2 keys away; one to the director of the school and the other to the gym teacher. They are both trustworthy people.

So just to make you guys aware of the situation involved with actually getting the gis to the kids, it's not so easy as just sending them to the village. First of all, you have to go through the right channels and have the right special stamps on certain papers to get "humanitarian aid" to the village. In other words, you can't just get a box full of equipment without any paperwork or proper bribes.

I think if we get the gis little-by-little to Romania first, the kids from Romania can take one or two of them in their travel bags and that way it won't look like there's a huge pile of illegal gis coming into the country.

I think that if we could get a maximum of 7 small (kids' size) gis and a maximum of 7 teenage/adult gis then we should be set.

As far as the prizes for the competition are concerned, I think that a nice (new, pimped-out) gi or maybe cash would be a good prize. And cash could be used to purchase a more traditional Moldovan prize like a sheep. This would definitely spark interest in the sport, not just in the village but in surrounding villages as well.

I REALLY like the idea of folks coming out every year to hold seminars and tournaments. This is an awesome plan I'd like to do anything I can to make it work.

I don't know any current PCVs in the region but I do know that my former boss can help me to network with anyone willing or capable of helping out. I think we should invite some PCVs to the competition (we should plan to hold it this summer) to maybe help people to get involved.

OK... that's enough from me... let's hear some more ideas!

juliajohansen said...

I just thought of something.

Have you heard of those projects that raise money and basically bribe families with young women--they offer them a sheep or a goat if they won't marry off their daughter while she's still a child.

What if we took an idea like that--for example, if Moldovans are big on sheep, then what if we offered families a sheep if their child stayed with BJJ for 6 months or a year? Or perhaps offered that to their school--for every 3 children in BJJ for 6 months they get a sheep. :)

This may be hard to prove--you've got to think of some of the sustainability. For example, that may be a great short term thing, but someone's got to be keeping track, contacting people, making sure the money is being spent correctly, checking up, and what happens in the long term? How will you keep the children interested and motivated once the carrot has been taken away.

I'm glad to see that the cross country thing may happen--sometimes that small rivalry can be an important spark!

I will be keeping an eye on this and will be happy to support it however I can!

combatsportsreviewblog said...

Sheep ;-) Sheep are so cute... Do they eat them? Don't answer that! Now, that you mentioned the sheep, I understand the culture / economy more. I need to let that information simmer some. I think Julia's right, that is a good "carrot" so to speak.
I want to know what the children's lives are like. Do they have to get up at the butt crack of dawn and herd sheep? Do they have time after school for BJJ or do they have to hurry home to do chores? Why can't we just give each participating child a gi to take home and keep?
The earliest I would be able to go is spring 2012. I think. I would have to pull off some major black magic to make it happen this summer.
Robert, thanks for the updates. Keep them coming.

Bobby and Amanda said...

I guess to clarify, a sheep (more appropriately a young ram) is the traditional prize given to the winner of the annual village wrestling competition. I suppose making a ram a prize isn't a necessity for our intents or purposes but it makes it interesting! I won the ram in '06 and I won't tell anyone what I did with it ;).

I'm not sure if giving families or schools a sheep or other stuff would work out, for the reason that Julie already foresaw: it's hard to check up on the school and make sure people are really doing stuff. But hey, we may still be able to make this work, who knows?

To answer Combat's question, yes, the kids all get up early and are farmers so they're strong as hell too... like little Moldovan Matt Hugheses. Normally they don't have a lot of chores during the winter time but by mid-spring there's really no time for training.

By mid-summer they are more free, just in time for super-hot weather! I think if each participant were to get a gi to take home it would be more likely to stay there and not get used. I think it would be better to leave them with the gym teacher...

Anyway, these are just my 2 cents.