One thing I have learned in Moldova is that we, Americans, cannot possibly imagine what the average person in a former Soviet nation has been through.  One day, a little over 20 years ago, our host family here in Moldova had their lives turned upside down by the destruction of the Soviet Union –something that most in the U.S. laud as a great victory.  At the time our hosts were about 40 years old and working in public service positions.  Suddenly the Rubles they had been putting away in the bank for 20 years were worthless.  They didn’t get paid for over six months.  They along with their newly sovereign nation were thrown into a market economy that they didn’t understand.

Today in the villages, most people still don’t understand the market economy or business, nor do they understand or trust banks.  The school director and I decided to plan and implement a project to address the lack of practical business education in our local school and hopefully improve the situation that Moldova was left in 20 years ago.

With that dramatic introduction, throughout this project we created a business club for high school students and built a greenhouse for them to operate as a business.  The business club gave students a chance to learn how to start a business and then create a business plan.  They then used that business plan to operate the greenhouse as a real business.  The greenhouse further served a second educational purpose in that is has given “technology” students a chance to actually see and practice proper agricultural techniques.

To my disappointment, the business club was only comprised of boys, but I still hope that some girls will get involved in the fall.  The club met each week and learned about various different parts of a business plan, then prepared their own business.  As part of the grant we won for the project, we were able to buy a computer for the students to use as they researched and prepared their plan.  While the business club was doing their thing, the school principal was directing the construction of our greenhouse.

We planned and built 200 meter² greenhouse on school property.  The greenhouse is located next to the school’s boiler room for ease of tapping into the school’s heating system.  This will allow earlier and later harvests.  We also installed a large water tank to feed the greenhouse’s drip irrigation system.  Because we decided to construct the greenhouse ourselves, the process was much slower than I wanted it to be.  However, the end result is great.  We have a quality greenhouse that will last for many years.

Unfortunately we will not be here to see the full harvest, but currently peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers are doing incredibly well.  I am confident that they will have a good harvest and be profitable this spring.  Finally, one great part about this project is that it is very sustainable.  The school and business club will continue to operate the greenhouse and use profits from it to sustain the business and improve the school.  I am hopeful that students can learn business skills for years to come.