UWRA – THE WAY TO STAY UNITED
Making a Difference: Those who served are still serving…
Making Connections: Communication…connection…camaraderie
Assistance to International Efforts has included:
- Guidance to Peace Corps Volunteers on starting a United Way
- Keynote Speaker for State Department International Briefing
- Mentoring United Way staff in Malaysia
Update on the United Way Moldova Initiative
The Republic of Moldova is a small country in Eastern Europe bordered by Ukraine and Romania. Similar to the issues in Ukraine, Moldovans struggle with many of the challenges common to the post-Soviet world and are regularly caught between East and West in their search for positioning both politically and economically.
The last Updates issue of 2013 contained an article on how Moldova Peace Corps Volunteers were looking to the United Way model to help facilitate change. As reported in the previous issue, Peace Corps Volunteers formed a working group with the goal of sparking an interest in a United Way in Moldova. Former UWI President and UWRA member Teresa Hall Bartels provided a wealth of information about the United Way Worldwide’s model of community impact and method for expansion. In particular, United Way’s role as a community coordinating body which draws diverse partners together to create focused, lasting, community change. Adriana Stoica, Director Network Capacity, Europe, for United Way Worldwide and first director of the United Way Romania provided the group valuable insights into starting a United Way in this part of the world.
PCVs work as educators, NGO and business consultants, advisors to local governments and advocacy groups, lead volunteer initiatives, etc. and have backgrounds spanning many diverse areas such as business administration/owners, academia, and engineering. It is this diversity, which is an innate part of the Peace Corps, that the volunteers believe positions them well to be uniquely suited to starting a community conversation about the United Way.
This Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/unitedwaymoldovainitiative on the United Way Moldova Initiative provides a description of the effort and an update on the progress since our last Updates article. At this writing the working group is to convene shortly to determine the next steps as a follow-up to the May 2014 meeting in which Adriana Stoica (Director Network Capacity, Europe, for United Way Worldwide) visited Moldova to help present, to The American Chamber of Commerce in Moldova and representatives of the international donor community, the benefits related to establishing a United Way in Moldova.
A few excerpts from the Facebook page are highlighted below. If interested in keeping updated be sure to Like and follow the United Way Moldova Initiative page to learn more about their efforts to engage people, organizations and companies with this initiative over time.
About the United Way Moldova Initiative
The United Way Moldova Initiative is a group dedicated to bringing the United Way Model of community development to Moldova. This group is supported by and advised by the United Way Worldwide but is not an official United Way entity.
Description of the effort
In Fall 2013 a group of Peace Corps Volunteers in Moldova along with members of local NGOs began a discussion on how a new model of sustainable community development needs to be developed in Moldova. This model would need to put community members into a position of leadership and responsibility for the community's development replacing their needs, priority, and direction with those of the international development community. The best model to implement such a system is the United Way.
United Way, a community-led organization founded more than 100 years ago in the United States, is now operating successfully in more than 45 countries throughout the world. The ultimate goal of a United Way organization is to “mobilize communities to create lasting community changes that will improve lives.” United Way convenes all sectors of society – business, non-profit, labor, government, faith-based, grassroots, and academia – to build the capacity of community organizations and contribute to long-term positive social change. It is volunteer-led and maintained and seeks to address root causes and multiple issues, according to a specific community’s need. United Way is a perfect tool for a people seeking self-sustainability.
On May 29, 2014 The American Chamber of Commerce in Moldova (AmCham Moldova) hosted a roundtable on “Employee Engagement & CSR Experience” organized at the initiative of United Way. Adriana Stoica from United Way Romania, Sandi Tarani from Raiffeisen Bank Romania, Ramona Gotteszman from Concordia, Constanta Popa from Moldcell and Peace Corps Volunteer David Smith presented to members of the AmCham CSR Committee and representatives of the international donor community the United Way initiative, the current CSR climate in Moldova and the benefits United Way could bring to Moldovan businesses, civil society and local communities.
Moldova Peace Corps Volunteers look to United Way model to facilitate change
The Republic of Moldova is a small republic in Eastern Europe that is little known in the West except perhaps for its wine production and title as the “poorest country in Europe.” Moldovans struggle with many of the challenges common to the post-Soviet world and are regularly caught between East and West in their search for positioning both politically and economically.
Peace Corps volunteers have served more than 50 years in 139 countries with a goal of spreading peace and friendship by working in areas requested by the host country. In 1993 then President Mircea Snegur requested Peace Corps in Moldova. Peace Corps currently works in several areas: small enterprise development, community organization development and teaching English and Health in Moldovan schools.
As a country that has been a focus of the international development community, Moldova has enjoyed a large injection of international aid and support. This has yielded major improvements in Moldova’s infrastructure and has provided funding at a grassroots level for many important community initiatives. On the down side, it has also fostered a culture of dependency; many Moldovan organizations cannot conceive of funding their operations independently. Furthermore, pressure from shifting international priorities creates an atmosphere where it is more important for an NGO to conform to donor’s desires than to community needs.
Peace Corps Volunteers have begun to investigate models that would help refocus development in a “by Moldovans for Moldovans” manner. One organization, HOSPICE Angelus Moldova (www.hospice.md), headed by John McKellar, has pioneered local fundraising in Moldova and proven that, with the right approach and drive, it is possible to leverage community resources in service of community priorities. After evaluating various models and ideas, the United Way stands out as a proven system with a natural fit for Peace Corps’ Moldova’s goals. After all, Peace Corps Moldova areas of service fall into the United Way’s focus areas of “Education, Income and Health.” It is because of this natural affinity that this project began to focus on making a United Way in Moldova a reality.
Former UWI President and UWRA member Teresa Hall Bartels provided a wealth of information about the United Way Worldwide’s model of community impact and method for expansion. In particular, United Way’s role as a community coordinating body which draws diverse partners together to create focused, lasting, community change. Adriana Stoica, Director Network Capacity, Europe, for United Way Worldwide and first director of the United Way Romania provided insights into starting a United Way in this part of the world. Since Moldova and Romania share much in the way of both history and culture, Adriana was able to convey many important lessons learned in the founding of United Way Romania. These connections have proved instrumental in formulating an understanding of the community voices that would be critically important to the process of starting a United Way in Moldova.
Peace Corps Volunteers have formed a working group with the goal of sparking an interest in a United Way in Moldova. We work as educators, NGO and business consultants, advisors to local governments and advocacy groups, and lead volunteer initiatives. Our backgrounds cover business administration/owners, academia, engineering and other diverse occupations. The group’s youngest volunteer is 23 and its oldest is 72. This diversity, which is an innate part of the Peace Corps, has positioned volunteers to be uniquely suited to starting a community conversation about the United Way. Through connections within our workgroups, we hope to gather a group of influential leaders from the NGO, business and faith-based communities to discuss United Way in Moldova. This group, should they commit themselves to the idea, would form a steering committee for the prospective United Way and take it through its founding with the guidance of United Way Worldwide and in keeping with the United Way Global Standards.
This article was written by Peace Corps Volunteer David Smith who chairs the United Way Moldova Exploratory Committee. The contents of this article in no way reflect the positions of the United States Government or the Peace Corps and belong solely to the author.
UWRA Board Chair Dick Aft, keynote presenter for the Department of State Annual Briefing on “The Importance of Non-Profit Organizations in the U.S.” is pictured with Mong Linh Do, Australia, Rhodnie Chesterfield, Zimbabwe and Marilyn Saks-McMillion, World Learning.
UWRA Board Chair Keynotes State Department Briefing for Mid-Level Government Leaders from 23 Countries
"The United Way network is a perfect example of the way that local and national leaders can work together to improve the quality of life for all citizens.” were the opening words of Dick Aft’s keynote presentation to the U.S. Department of State Annual International Seminar for future world leaders. Mid-level government and non-profit officials from 23 countries began a three week program that will expose them to non-profit leaders in eight cities, from St. Louis, MO to Bozeman, MT and conclude in Seattle, WA. Alumni of the program range from past British Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher to the current President of Moldova, Nicolae Timofti.
United Way Worldwide asked Dick in light of his knowledge of United Way history and years of overseas volunteer services to United Way International. His presentation included an overview of the non-profit sector in the United States and examples of ways in which it empowers volunteers, staff members and service recipients to improve conditions locally and nationally. He illustrated his presentation by describing United Way’s key role in convening partnerships of business, government and non-profit organizations that share goals to improve health, education and income. This is the first year that United Way has been asked to keynote this program.
UWRA Facilitates Agreement with United Way in Malaysia
UWRA Volunteer Provides Valuable Help in Malaysia
Potential New United Way in Malaysia
Tricia Smith, President and CEO of UWRA has been very supportive since 2009 in helping to identify volunteers to be deployed to Malaysia to help restart the Malaysian Humanitarian Foundation (MHF) as a United Way in Malaysia. Finally, Yezdyar Kaoosji was on his assignment as a United Way volunteer consultant to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on August 7 to September 6, 2012. Mr. Kaoosji met with the Board Chair and Executive Director of MHF to secure their support in adapting the United Way Business model and the 3 pillars of Education, Income and Health as their key priorities.
United Way Worldwide is currently negotiating some branding issues with the leadership of MHF. Given the extended dormancy of MHF, United Way Worldwide regards them as a start-up versus a restart, in which case the Membership Accountability Committee policies calling for the use of the United Way name are more compelling. It is anticipated a Provisional Partnership Agreement will be signed when the branding issues are resolved.
During Mr. Kaoosji’s one month volunteer assignment, he was able to accomplish:
- Briefing & Coaching Ms. Stephanie Lim, Manager, Malaysian Humanitarian Foundation: This has been undertaken on an ongoing basis throughout the assignment.
- Facilitated a planning session for Stephanie Lim, Manager & Kyong Suk Aagesen United Way Worldwide Regional Director to develop a 24-Month Action Plan.
- Compiled suitable policies listed in a comprehensive “Draft Administrative Policy Manual” that can be used to update and enrich the organization’s existing bylaws and policies from time to time.
- Provided comments and guidance to the Executive Director for responding to the branding issue.
- Participated in debriefing after each visit to corporate, government and community prospective partners, briefly:
- Following visits to Penang suggested making such calls only after developing a strong case for giving and follow through with an action plan for a campaign.
- Following a visit to the University Putra Malaysia and receiving several specific proposals; to analyze the same and select only those that have a strong linkage to the three building blocks – education, health & income stabilization.
- Following a visit to Microsoft: Follow through on their interest in running a campaign; also connect with United Way Worldwide Global Corporate Leadership (GCL) staff to provide details about the Microsoft software for United Ways.
- Disabled Children’s home: Explore whether they can be NGO partners after due diligence on the organization’s operations.
- Work out details about 1AZAM and explore whether they can become a source for matching funding. Engage some board of trustees members in making an appropriate approach to higher level decision makers in the government. This may have to wait until the expected elections are over in order to avoid past challenges encountered when a change in leadership has been experienced.
- Motorola may be a good prospect for a local campaign. Evaluate working with them directly given that their global support of United Way campaigns is not very strong (10% participation and no corporate gift).
- Tower’s Watson: Represents a very enthusiastic CEO who has offered to participate immediately. Evaluate preparing this as a pilot project with top priority.
- In addition Mr. Kaoosji met with Dato’ Dr. Thillianathan Ramasamy, a director of Genting and chairman of a well-established NGO education program for school children titled Child Information Learning & Development Center (CHILDS). He met several board members and noted to the MHF Executive Director, Mr. Henry The, that they could possibly be a lead partner as an education NGO.
As a follow-up to the on-site work, Mr. Kaoosji has offered to be available as a resource for guiding the organization whenever possible via email.