Nadia Pascaru-Botnaru: "The smiles of the people we help give me strength and inspire me to keep doing good"Published: Aug 16, 2023 Reading time: 6 minutes
On the eve of World Humanitarian Day, we spoke to our colleague Nadia Pascaru-Botnaru, who coordinates our project helping people in Moldova to recover from war in Ukraine. Nadia reminds us of the importance of humanitarian work.
- Why is your project important for Moldova and our society?
- We, the Republic of Moldova, are a small country whose greatest wealth is our people. A "Small country with a big heart" - we have received this compliment internationally. In this project, people help other people to face challenges.
When we look at a faraway war, we perceive it differently. But when we found ourselves with war at our doorstep, it probably made our society more empathetic towards the suffering people of the Ukrainian people. At the same time, the need arose to become more resilient, adapt to new realities, and see what good we could do in these difficult times. And this 'good' has been outlined in this project, thanks to the support of the European Union. We all understand the importance of humanitarian aid in crisis situations. Still, at the same time, we have to ensure that civil society is sustainable in the long term. The project is not limited to immediate and tangible humanitarian aid. We want people to be trained, i.e. better prepared for possible new challenges. We want to help civil society to be able to think critically, to pay attention to how it gathers and disseminates information, etc. I hope the war will soon, and then the question will arise: "What do we do next?". That is why we want to give civil society the answer to this question.
- And how would you assess the performance of the Moldovan participants in the project?
- All selected civil society organisations (CSOs) are developing and providing services in their field, and I am very grateful to them for this. The project funds CSOs, active on the ground and involved in community development. This, after all, was also one of our primary selection criteria. We wanted to work with organisations, which are committed, and give them all the support they need to give them our shoulder. We, People in Need, have considerable resources and capacity, and with the help of the European Union, we are able to achieve great, beautiful things.
- Is this project a first for People in Need, or have there been similar projects?
- A few years ago, we ran a regional project called "Civil Society Actors - Drivers of Change in the Countries of the Southern Caucasus and the Republic of Moldova". At that time, the focus was on civil society, which was facing different kinds of challenges. At that time, Ukraine was not part of the project. But the war forced us to become more resilient, to change our priorities and not limit ourselves to a strictly humanitarian project. Of course, money is always needed, but we wanted to use these EU funds as a tool for growth. The phenomenon of disinformation and propaganda has existed until now (nothing new, it would seem), but after 24 February 2022, society's attitude to this issue has changed a lot.
- How did you manage to build the team around this project?
- The regional team working on this project is exceptionally diverse. Although we are different in nationality, we are all moving in the same direction, driven by the same values; we complement each other and want to make this world a little bit better. Most of us also worked on the previous project, so we didn't have to start from scratch. I am coordinating the project at the country level. Here we have a small but very professional project team. I am thrilled to have the support of my colleagues. Lately, I put a lot of emphasis on the people I work with. And when I meet people from whom I can learn something new, I am delighted, and I have met many such people in this project.
- The project "Civil Society Resilience and Media Response to the War in Ukraine" is in full swing. What feedback have you gotten from the beneficiaries?
- I like what I hear and see at the moment. Reactions speak of gratitude and recognition. I am referring to the representatives of the selected CSOs to work on this project and the target audience: children, young people, refugees, etc. But, I think that the full feedback will be received only after all our activities are completed. The results will really be felt in a few years; I know this from the experience of previous projects. And when I saw these positive results, my heart was light because I knew that I had put a pebble in the foundation of success. It is not always easy to achieve all the goals you set for yourself, but the grateful eyes of the people and the smiles of the children we help give me strength and inspire me to keep doing good. I hope we will have such a positive experience here too.
- And finally, what would a successful project, in this case, mean for you?
- I would be happy if all the organisations we work with now would continue their work in the same inspired way. I would be very happy if the young people who participated in the project can analyse information and be protected from misinformation. I am pleased if a refugee smiles, knowing that (s)he has been heard and helped and at the same time included in the host community, thus integrated, able to work and earn a decent living despite all challenges. In this way, an inclusive approach does not diminish the dignity of the person you are helping; it does not position you above them. And, more often than not, people in need - appreciate this. In conclusion, I hope at least one seed from each project branch will sprout; it will be a success.
To help society cope with the challenges and protect it from the consequences of war in Ukraine, People in Need, in consortium with the Civil Society Centre in Prague and the Netherlands Helsinki Committee, is developing a regional project, "Civil Society Resilience and Media Response to the War in Ukraine". With the support of the European Union (DG NEAR), we have joined forces to respond to the needs of people in Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia. The project supports CSOs and independent media actors in the Eastern Partnership countries. Initially, 8 CSOs actively involved in countering the consequences of the war were selected in Moldova. They provide a wide range of services to beneficiaries: legal advice, psychosocial support, distribution necessities, and preparation of hot lunches. They also organised workshops and courses in different regions of Moldova. Subsequently, four other CSOs were selected by PIN Moldova to join the project; they were tasked with increasing media literacy among the rural population and countering misinformation. These organisations have started implementing the One World in Schools (OWIS) programme, which uses documentary films for educational purposes, including countering misinformation and developing critical thinking skills.