The Institute for Rural Initiatives with the assistance of volunteers from Peace Corps welcomed students from American University to Zirnesti and Cahul from March 15 to March 17, 2012. Visiting Moldova during an alternative spring break, 14 students from American University in Washington, D.C. traveled from Chisinau to Zirnesti to continue their research of marginalized communities and the organizations that represent them in Moldova.
During their visit, students had discussions with local community leaders while touring through the neighborhoods of Zirnesti, getting to know the focus of the local NGOs and what kinds of prejudices the members of the marginalized communities faces on a daily basis. The students got to know the pupils of Ion Creanga Lyceum through a volleyball game, learning traditional Moldovan dances and team building games. The visiting students wanted to do something of service for the school, and gave the lyceum materials to rebuild a wall that was in disrepair in the assembly hall.
On Friday, the American students held a discussion with Ruslan Stanga, director of the Institute for Rural Initiatives, that focused on IRI current programs and the focus of the organization. Students inquired about as to how NGOs dealing with minorities are accepted in Moldova, and wanted to know what the future held for organizations like IRI. Students were also taken to the English Resource Center in B. P. Hasdeu University of Cahul, where they learned about the Center and also about RISE (Roma Inclusion, Support and Education), a group started by Peace Corps Volunteers. The American students got a view of life in Moldova from many different perspectives while on their trip, and hopefully learned a thing or two about Moldovan culture.