CEEM had planned a trip to Moldova in April this year.
The report that follows gives a great account of the success of the trip. It truly is a privilege to partner together in the Gospel.
MOLD-AGRI Full Report for 2018 Visit
by Mike Day
TUESDAY 10th APRIL
On this visit, I was accompanied by Terry Rugg and Philip Bowes from St Neots Evangelical church. Terry had been to Moldova before but not for 5 years, for Philip it was his first visit. Terry and Philip arrived in Over at 11.30 am and Kate drove us to Stanstead to catch Air Moldova flight 9U0834 to Chisinau. Terry had to pay £45 for an excess bag (cash only acceptable!). This was my first trip without John Law who is now living in Turkey. It was a smooth flight and Terry sat next to a doctor named Natalia who had been visiting her husband working on a building site in London. Her knowledge of the health system in Moldova might be useful. We were met at Chisinau airport by the whole Hmelic family: Igor, Lucia, Ana (15), Bogdan (41/2) and Victor (3) and driven to their home to spend the night. We had a meal with the family and exchanged news and presented gifts.
WEDNESDAY 11th APRIL
After breakfast, we headed for Chisinau city centre to change money and purchase extra vegetable seed at Vadalex-Agro. The exchange rate was roughly 20 leu to 1 euro and 23 leu to 1 £ (worse than last year when it was 21 and 25). The vegetable list was: Tomato Gravitet, Cucumber Ekol, Pepper Lotta, Radish Tinto and Water Melon Crimson Sweet. One of Igor’s drivers Sergei then drove us to Burlacu via Cimislia and Comrat. En route, we witnessed a nasty accident when two cars came together and one bounced off the road hitting two pedestrians, one of whom was knocked several feet into a field. We arrived at Burlacu at 2 pm and were welcomed by Andrei and Eugenia. Their house had been transformed by knocking the kitchen into the living room and fitting smart new cupboards. Andrei had also upgraded his car to an Opel Zafira courtesy of Stockwood church in Bristol and they are now connected to gas and piped water.
After a snack, we visited the new orphanage which had been built next to the church on the site of Tamara’s house. CEEM had purchased the site and the frame of the building had been erected by a German charity and finished off by local labour. It is almost completed and Ghenardie and Anna, who will be in charge, moved in the previous week. The building has beds for 12 in double rooms. They aim to start with 3 or 4 children until they have built up experience.
Later we walked up to the spring water site above the village with Adrian, Andrei’s son then returned to the orphanage for a meal and discussion with Ghenardie and Anna about requirements for the “Meal Deal” as we would not see them later as they are taking some of the boys away to plan a football World Cup camp this summer. They have a 15-month boy Mathius.
Peter from the neighbouring village of Taraclia is also going with them to the clamp and the German organisation (Gospel Direct) that built the new church in Burlacu is planning to build one in Taraclia this year.
THURSDAY 12th APRIL
Eugenia was missing at breakfast as she had travelled to Cahul to take an assessment to further her teaching qualifications (which she passed). She is a form teacher in Burlacu school but has been asked to take on English as well.
We reported to the “Hope Centre” to visit the “Meal Deal” children. As it was the week after their Easter (using the orthodox calendar) schools were on holiday and “Meal Deal” was not in operation but they had rounded up enough children for a session. After football, Philip presented a talk on “The Light of the World”. This was followed by food – rice with orange pieces and a game of balloon football. They have 60 currently attending every school day which needs three cooks as well as Ghenardie and Anna leading. We presented them with a case full of craft material and games most of which will be stored away for next term.
Terry, Philip and I took a walk around the village taking in the site of the old collective farm buildings before returning for a meal at the Hope Centre together with the workmen finishing off a storeroom and chicken house at the orphanage.
Next stop was the medical centre which Terry had visited during his last Moldova trip 5 years ago. The staff were still the same – Angela and Maria and were still chronically understocked with equipment and medicines. Their equipment seemed to consist of mechanical scales, a height measuring device and an unreliable blood pressure tester. We asked them to make a list of their requirements and later we managed to scrape together 9,000 leu (450 eu) which Andrei will use to buy as much of their list as possible. We then called on the local author Stefan Olteanu for Terry to purchase a copy of his book on Burlacu.
The afternoon was very hot and we spent the hottest period breaking up the seed we had brought in Chisinau and that which Tozer’s had donated in the UK into smaller packets.
When it cooled down a little Andrei managed to start his rotovator and we began planting. Spring was late this year in Moldova due to extended periods of snow and frost so for the first time that I can recall, onions and potatoes had not been planted before our visit. During this first session, we planted 13 rows of onions about 50 metres long before Andrei and the rotovator both gave up!
We were all invited to Alona and Elijah’s for dinner two doors up from Andrei’s. Alona had been the English teacher at school and Elijah one of her pupils! They have a son Janus and a new baby Jocelyn born last October. Elijah is a very keen goalkeeper and had recently been visiting his sister in London and would like to get a job in the UK. He is a carpenter and had fitted Andrei and Eugenia’s new kitchen cupboards. He was due to leave Sunday to help build a church in Kazakhstan.
FRIDAY 13th APRIL
The vegetable seminar was planned for today located at Hirtop this year for the first time. We had the morning to fill in and hoped to plant potatoes and seed at Andrei’s but his rotovator shot flames when encouraged to start and would not spring to life. Andrei tried to borrow his father’s machine but he was in Cahul so we cleared all the prunings and dried grass between his 10 rows of vines and 50 fruit trees and burnt the results. After lunch, we travelled Hirtop and met Oleg, Angelina, and Madelina. Oleg is a very energetic individual in both his church and growing enterprises.
Oleg’s two tunnels are 1000 sq m each, both are full of Tomatoes cv Qualite, (a new Syngenta variety similar to Gravitet with better disease resistance) and Cucumbers a coded variety SV4097CV from Seminis. The 2,500 tomatoes had been sown on 15th January and planted on the 7th March. The same number of cucumbers had been sown on 5th February and again planted on the 7th March. Heating the tunnels is a constant worry as one night's frost can wipe out a seasons work. He has one modern boiler, which we paid for, that copes with one tunnel and he has usually used his homemade solid fuel boiler in the other. As this needed feeding throughout the night for a few weeks, he slept in the tunnel. This year he tried to adapt the modern boiler to cope with both tunnels but it barely coped so instead of being awake to stoke his old boiler he was awake wondering if the new one would cope with both tunnels! Both crops were a little behind due to the cold weather but looked healthy. A second boiler would cost 3,500 euros. Igor had steam sterilised both tunnels one in February 2017 and the other in June 2017 and Oleg was pleased with the results
He also tests varieties for us to discuss at the Seed Seminar but unfortunately, his computer managed to blackout all the photos. As reported last year he was pleased with Asparagus grown from seed and would like more seed. He had good results with a selection of courgettes particularly Black Beauty and Gisella de Provence. He especially liked the cylindrical beetroot Forno and produced some stored samples. John had left some super-hot chilli pepper seeds but the germination was poor and he only managed one plant which did not properly ripen. I gave him a selection of seeds to try for this year from the Tozers range and some from D.T. Brown that I planned to mention in the seminar (see Appendix).
We then inspected the new church building that had been finished very well and the “Meal Deal” extension had not still been completed as they had run out of money. The kitchen is particularly urgent as they had been reprimanded for producing food in unsuitable conditions; they need 3000 euros to complete this. They are currently running “Meal Deal” for 3 days a week for 20 children. They have made a football pitch and inside have two table tennis tables and a skittles alley that Oleg had made.
The church now has 20 members and a congregation of 30-40 with music from a mandolin band.
We had been told that the seminar would start at 5 pm but the audience had been invited for 6 pm! We discovered that despite reassurances to the contrary that they did not have a projector. Igor then phoned to say that he could not make it and Oleg had lost all his pictures – in Moldova you expect the unexpected but this was not a promising start! Andrei then weaved his magic by locating a projector and arranging for one of the attendees to pick it up en route. At 6 pm we had five in the audience and it did not look good but by 6.15 pm there were over 40 which was very good for the first seminar in a small village. Igor introduced the session; I spoke on UK developments that might be useful in Moldova and crops that they could try. Angela Zimmerman, an American soil scientist volunteer described her work and the seed we had brought disappeared as quickly as usual!
We discussed sending money to Moldova via “Western Union” and copied Oleg’s passport details. We handed over £500 (11,500 leu) donated by Over Baptist church for their “Meal Deal” food and £1000 (23,000 leu) to support the agricultural projects.
SATURDAY 14th APRIL
Kiril, Andrei’s father turned up with his rotovator which had predictably been adapted to run on the road at high speed and pull a trailer. Andrei was able to complete the rotovating with constant advice from Kiril and we planted 6 x 50-metre rows of potatoes and a demonstration bed of seeds that I had taken from the UK: Watermelon, radish, carrot, parsnip, squash, broad beans, runner beans and lettuce.
Over lunch, Kiril told us about his time in the Russian army as a tank driver in 1968 involved in a border war with China. He had travelled extensively in Siberia once spending 16 days on the Trans-Siberian railway. He had also spent time in Belorussia (Belarus) and claimed it to be one of the better parts of the old Soviet Union.
After lunch, we drove to Tataresti in the next valley to visit Andrei’s brother Denis and view his father-in-law’s tunnel site so badly damaged in the snow last year. The site and house are approached over an exceedingly rickety bridge that is hazardous to walk over let alone drive over. They had managed to cobble together two tunnels from the wreckage of five and had decent crops of cucumbers and tomatoes. Last year was a write-off. We were then introduced to a near neighbour Ion who had a large area of potatoes under fleece. Characteristically for the season, they had yet to emerge. Last year in the snow he lost 60% of his crop but prices did not reflect this as potatoes were brought in from northern Moldova which had not been so badly affected.
Next call was to Victor and Vera. He is joint pastor for the village with a thriving church of 140 adults and 120 children. They have four tunnels growing flowers: petunias, geraniums, impatiens, alyssum to sell in pots and later chrysanthemums to sell as cut flowers. It was a very labour intensive exercise.
In the evening we travelled to Cahul to show Philip the town and take Andrei and Eugenia for a meal at “Andy’s Pizzeria”. A meal for 5 plus taking food back for the children came to 780 leu (£34).
SUNDAY 15th APRIL
Service was at 10 am. Numbers were down due to holiday time and a group away at camp. The teenage girls sang accompanied by Daniella on the guitar and Eugenia sang a solo. Philip did a short talk on “I am the Way” and I took the sermon on “Barnabus” Andrei interpreted very well.
After we walked up the street to view the house and plot that we are donating 2000 euros to buy for Mikel, Andrei’s other brother. The house is in poor condition and he may need to knock it down to start again. He and his wife Oxana and two daughters have been living with his mother-in-law but Oxana’s sister has returned home following a divorce and things have not been going well.
After lunch at Andrei’s we drove to Chioselia to meet up with Valerie a successful beekeeper. He is a pastor at a small church in neighbouring Costanglia where the church building doubles as a community centre. He owns land in the hills nearby and currently has 110 hives and last year produced 5 tons of honey. Most of it goes to Germany in exchange for support for village activities especially feeding the elderly. We visited his hives and had to don protective clothing as his bees were rather aggressive. The first flush of honey comes from oilseed rape and this year the area of rape is reduced due to a dry autumn, however, he has a contract with a farmer who grows 1000 hectares.
The hives return to the hills where they are surrounded by acacia trees for the second flush and the heaviest yield last year came from the third flush based on sunflowers. It was idyllic in the hills far from the madding crowd. We then returned to Chioselia to inspect his honey extracting and storage facilities and met the family over a cup of tea. He had three teenage children Livia, Naomi and Theophilus! The girls were very musical and we were given piano and mandolin recitals.
We returned to Burlacu for a youth meeting which again was missing numbers on the camp and at a concert in Cahul. Those that were there were singing and contributed very well and we each gave a short talk followed by discussion.
Back at base we sorted cash and gave Andrei and Eugenia money for paying the “Meal Deal” staff (54,000 leu, 2700 eu), B&B (3000 leu, 150 eu), the summer camp (5000 leu, 250 eu) and for the medical centre (9000 leu, 450 eu)
MONDAY 16th APRIL
We left Burlacu before 8.30 am and Andrei and Eugenia drove us to Leova via Cantemir and the rural route. While the main roads in Moldova have shown some improvements the minor ones are worse. We arrived at Leova around 11.00 am and first of all inspected Illie’s large l80 m x 7 m tunnel which again was producing an excellent crop of radish and will later be planted with tomatoes. He started harvesting radish a week ago and is keen on variety Tinto. Last year he grew experimental patches of lettuce, spinach, cauliflowers and cabbage. His small, ex NIAB tunnel was growing cucumbers, tomatoes and other seedlings for transplanting. Illie has a flock of 21 goats including 5 kids so far and has planted a blackberry plantation. His house extension was still far from finished but one room was plastered and close to being used and he has doors and materials to tackle the bathroom next. Upstairs was packed with stored items of all descriptions especially clothes and sunflower seeds. Evidently he has used previous CEEM donations to buy a 1.2 ha field which grew maize on 2016 and sunflowers in 2017. Typically he has built a maize mill and a sunflower crusher and uses the sunflower oil for cooking while the residue meal is fed to the goats and chickens. Illie too has a replacement car a Mitsubishi Overlander – it is not new but a considerable improvement on his old one.
We met wife Pasha, youngest son Elijah and briefly their severely handicapped daughter Tabitha who is now 19. Elijah is studying and claims to be able to play 19 musical instruments. He is very good on the piano accordion and we had another musical interlude during which Igor joined us from Chisinau and joined in as he can play the clarinet and saxophone. Andrei and Eugenia departed and we presented Illie with seeds and 12,500 leu (£500) to encourage his work.
We then departed to Eugene’s and met him, wife Aliona and 8 of his 9 children! Last year we had left cash to purchase the adjoining house and the transaction has gone through but he has not yet had time or money to improve it beyond making it waterproof. He has two wide tunnels one growing tomatoes cv Gravitet and the other potatoes. Both crops looked well and will be used for feeding the family rather than sales. He currently has 14 goats and 6 kids. He has brought an elderly ex English minibus to convey his tribe and dug a large inspection pit in his garage.
We were then given lunch together with his family and Illies three altogether 17 of us in a modest-sized dining area. Inevitable there was music this time supplied by Aliona who sang and has been learning the guitar since December. Igor joined in with a saxophone.
Eugene graduates as a fully-fledged gas fitter in June which will hopefully boost their income. They have recently been granted access to the local prison where Eugene was once a regular visitor. So far they have only been in once the previous week and held a service attended by 50 of the 400 inmates. We left Eugene 12,500 leu (£500) and most of what we had left which amounted to 7,000 leu.
Igor has started a Soil Sterilisation business and has been trying to get this off the ground which is difficult as it is a new concept in Moldova – at least since the Russians left. We have been helping by subsidising experiments and demonstrations. One breakthrough is that he has treated the Ministry of Agriculture tunnels as a paid contract. He has treated several sites for different crops throughout the country and we were able to visit some strawberry tunnels near Chisinau on the way back. There were eight tunnels, six had been steamed and two not. The steamed tunnels were cleaner of weeds but a few plants had yellow lower leaves which might be a nutrient deficiency (calcium or nitrogen) Angela Zimmerman was called for advice and hopefully will visit. The treated tunnels appeared to have more flowers but the varieties were not identical. We donated a further 20,000 leu (1000 euros) to help demonstrate, launch and evaluate the system.
As is traditional on our last evening we took the whole of Igor’s family to Andy’s Pizzas in the evening
TUESDAY 17th APRIL
We had a 12.40 pm flight but had a difficult journey to the airport as there was a serious traffic jam in Chisinau and we travelled about 1 mile in 55 minutes trying not to check our watches too often! We eventually arrived in reasonable time and were checked in very quickly.
The return flight was slightly bumpy. Kate picked us up from Stanstead and we were home by 3.00 pm
We achieved everything we set out to do and added a few extras which as usual we were not expecting. It was good to have Terry enthusiastic about Moldova again and to introduce Philip to the country. The weather was hot and mainly sunny throughout – a huge contrast to the previous year.
Many of the pluses and minuses are the same as the previous year but several others can be added.
All the families we visited- children growing up well and friendship offered
Hirtop’s “Meal Deal”
Seed Seminar at Hirtop
Burlacu “Meal Deal” now serving 60 children
The new orphanage
Aliona and Elijah back in circulation
All three churches positive and holding their own
New church planned at Taraclia
Meeting new people in Tataresti
More reliable vehicles
Eugene graduating as a gas fitter
Regaining access to the prison in Leova
Several families are missing members working abroad
Soil steaming needs paying customers
Hirtop building not completed especially the kitchen
Oleg’s heating needs
Medical resources in Burlacu
Mikel’s new property problems
The state of Eugene’s new property
Many thanks as ever for all those who supported us in any way.
Mike Day - 19th April 2018