Changes happen at HOME, even from thousands of kilometres away

“I can’t imagine how I left behind everything at home and moved to Ireland for three years”, says Ion Poia, president of the “Unghenenii de Pretutindeni” Hometown Association while admiring the park’s alleys, which have just been renovated thanks to the locals’ contributions who moved out from Ungheni, their hometown.

This was the city’s first project to be carried out by natives of Ungheni from around the world in close partnership with local public authorities. Ion was the liaison between natives living abroad and the City Hall. Besides volunteering as part of his role of president of hometown association, Ion is employed, has a family, one child, and plays football for the local team.

“Unfortunately, 8,100 children and teenagers from Ungheni, including 353 left without parental care, as their parents are work migrants, didn’t enjoy opportunities to fulfil their potential and conditions to practice their hobbies”, notes Ion Poia.

Even though the local public authorities from Ungheni were trying to create as many alternatives as possible for the children and adolescents to spend their spare time, the inhabitants did not have a park with accompanying entertaining activities.

The city’s only park, with a surface area of around 10 hectares, is located in the Youth District, an area with approximately 15,000 people, most of them living in apartment buildings. Until recently, the park was in a poor condition. For more than 25 years, no investments happened, and therefore the park that was set up during the Soviet Union, became a place without benches, lights, or even pavements. Once the park was a real attraction for everyone with its big trees and fresh air, however its bad condition made few people to venture for a short walk.

“We couldn’t stay in the park, simply because benches were missing. Children couldn’t roller the skate, ride their scooters, or engage in sports, as there were no pavements. Due to the rough land, leisurely walks for the older people and with disabilities were risky,  even during daytime. In the evenings, the park was empty because of no public lights,” says Tatiana Ternovcschi, a mother of three.

At the initiative of UNDP Moldova, a Hometown Association was created for the first time in 2016 within the framework of the “Migration and Local Development” Project. The NGO became a partner to liaise with the City Hall. In the same year, a survey was conducted to identify the city’s priorities. Locals and migrants from all corners of the world took part in that survey, both online and offline, participated in focus groups, and showed their interest in contributing to the development of the Ungheni Municipality Park.

In order to collect the necessary funds, Ion Poia, the president of the Association, organized fundraising campaigns and facilitated the organization of cultural events in the central park such as “Children’s Day”, which included fun activities for children, a football match for locals. All these activities led to a USD 2,500 contribution from locals.

As well, Ungheni was one of the 25 communities that participated in Moldova’s first crowdfunding campaign aimed at solving community problems. Thus, 187 locals and migrants originally from Ungheni contributed USD 10,300, via online donations.

The Government of Switzerland and the Ungheni Municipality City Hall in partnership with Ungheni District Council donated USD 20,000 USD each for the park’s first phase of renovation.

“We are extremely proud that through this project we restarted the park’s development. With the collected money, we could renovate initially two  alleys of 300-meters, we created playgrounds and lanes for cyclists, roller-skaters, scooter riders, and skateboarders. In the meantime, more resources were mobilized to continue other renovation works in the park. A considerable financial contribution was made by the Cluj-Napoca Municipality City Hall for the “Children’s Town” in the central park. We are seeking for other financial resources to continue the renovation and maintain the central park”, says Alexandru Ambros, mayor of Ungheni.

Now, everybody, including families with children, can have a peaceful and safe walk. The adolescents enjoy interesting and secure areas for entertainment, whereas the elderly and persons with disabilities can stroll and relax on the benches of the newly renovated park.

“I have one more dream - I want to establish a Football Academy for children. Now I train two children for professional football. We would really need a football field in this park”, says Ion Poia.

Who knows, maybe this can be another project that the diaspora will take on to help locals?

Through the “Migration and Local Development” Project, in 13 other communities from the Republic of Moldova local migrants got involved in the improvement of their hometown’s recreation facilities (parks, sports facilities, community cultural centres). Another 27 local infrastructure projects were completed with the financial support from Moldovans who have left their hometowns. Overall, an amount of 3.4 million MDL (USD 205,300 USD) was collected.