OGI Moldova: A Look at 2018

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OGI Moldova: A Look at 2018

As many of you know, Open Gate has been busy digging its roots internationally and has been doing some amazing work around the world. Moldova has been a sought out location for Open Gate International for a long time. It’s considered the second least visited country in the world and is the poorest country of Eastern Europe, but the beauty of it is unmatched. Moldova has a lot of potential for opportunity and economic development, so Open Gate plans to be a part of this country’s period of regrowth.

During the first visit in Moldova, O.G.I met with Catricci Nail Salon to discuss a partnership of training young ladies from the vulnerable populations in the nail industry while taking a look at the building that was going to be purchased. Our Chief Catalyst, Deidre Pujols, had the opportunity to speak at the Beginning of Life women’s group and encouraged them with ideas and a vision to help them get through their cultural hardships. O.G.I made their way to the community of Antonesti to bake decorative cookies with the young ladies of O.G.I’s culinary program. They wrapped up their first visit by taking a trip to the Uniqa Factory and learning about their company and how they train young men to learn about the new technologies of home construction.

In June of 2018, our very own Chef Cinthia made her way to Moldova for the first time and taught the young women of Antonesti how to make pasta, pizza, and many other recipes. These women were truly inspired by Chef Cinthia and loved learning from her. During this visit, O.G.I met with the CEO of Build and Grow to search for a family in need who would be a good candidate for a brand new home. After some time of searching, we found a beautiful family who was the perfect fit for this home. A team of professionals from France, Germany, Russia, Belarus, America, and the Netherlands came together and completed this project within three days. The family has a young son with a disability, so being able to help a family who has sacrificed everything to give their son the best life possible, was very emotional for everyone. We were also fortunate enough to connect with a Moldovan Ministry representative to share the things that we are working on in the country, with the hopes of getting their support for our efforts to advance Moldova.

A few months later, Chef Matheiu visited Chisinau to teach the women from our partner organization, Beginning of Life, how to make specialty pastries. These women were extremely happy to be a part of that class. Chef Matheiu took the next steps for culinary development and partnership and is going to launch a program that will help unskilled and unemployed women to become employed and skilled in the culinary industry. This program has scheduled to launch this January 2019! Another advancement in Moldova was Catricci Nail Salon’s grand opening of their new facility. After scouting out places during the first Moldova visit, Deidre Pujols cut the ribbon to officially mark the opening of this beautiful salon and life-changing program.

2018 was a significant year for Open Gate and their partners with all the progress that was made in Moldova. Deidre Pujols visited this country several times throughout the year while having Sherri and Lance living there for the past two years representing O.G.I. They’ve been busy building relationships and partner programs for the communities and have done more than we could have ever imagined.

“I am planning with great anticipation to be progressive with the development of this beautiful country and its vulnerable populations. Sherri and Lance have served the people of Moldova on behalf of Open Gate International for two years. Their mission is complete and they did a tremendous job with the foundational efforts and making strong relationships with Moldovians who we will continue to walk alongside of. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for their commitment.” – Deidre Pujols, Chief Catalyst

The Noziks relocated back to the USA in December 2018 and plan to remain engaged as volunteers with OGI Stateside. They will also continue to support and advocate for the foster care and adoption movement in Moldova until every child has a family.

Open Gate Moldova Partners with Local Business Owner!

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On her visit to Moldova in April, OGI Founder Deidre Pujols met with Ellia Catricci, a local business owner and vocational trainer. Ellia has her own school of cosmetology in Chisinau and is now launching out to create three new nail salons in Moldova’s capitol, as well as a new school of nail design. OGI is partnering with Eliia to create employment opportunities and vocational training through a low interest, small business loan. With this investment, Ellia is hoping to create 30 new jobs as well as train individuals from all backgrounds and skill levels to start new careers in cosmetology.

As a result of our partnership…

Ellia has already accepted two young women from a local transitional home for at risk youth into her training program and plans to offer them a chance to work in her newest nail salon location. These two young women are full of skill and hope for the future. While they are finishing their state educations, they will be able to take a part-time position with Ellia in an effort to save money and build their resumes, aiding in the transition process of becoming self-sustaining, empowered adults. We are looking forward to seeing the success and growth of all the students who train and work with Ellia, who is herself, a very stylish hero indeed!

Picture in new salon and training location: From left, OGI team member Sherri Nozik, Ellia Catricci, Deidre Pujols, Max Catricci (Ellia’s husband), and OGI Moldova President Anatol Malancea. The property remodel has already begun and the salon will open in June 2018!

Youth Culinary Training and Prevention Program in Antonesti, Moldova

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What an exciting day!

A week before Christmas, the first graduating class of the Youth CulinaryTraining Program in Antonesti Moldova came to the capital city of Chisinau for a celebration. Their trainers, Diana and Olga, brought the girls on the 2-hour journey into the city. We met upat Smokehouse, an American-style barbeque restaurant that graciously accepted our request totake a kitchen tour and talk to their chef and manager, all while eating some great (and culturally interesting) food.

One of the owners of Smokehouse was there to greet the girls and give them a very important talk. He discussed doing business in Moldova without corruption, going after dreams, and working hard with complete integrity. He also introduced the newest chef and restaurantmanager – a woman! She took the girls through her kitchen. What a great example of awoman, at age 21, doing something professionally that she loved. She shared her thoughts about work and that it should be something a person is passionate about. She encouraged thegirls to study something that truly interests them, set goals, and go after them!

Indeed – girls and women are heroes.

The group, after eating a table full of barbeque, decided to do some ice skating in the city’s center. Smiles, hugs, and heaps of gratitude were shared as they prepared for their trip back tothe village – after some hot chocolate of course.

The girls were so determined to stay in contact with their trainers that they signed up to do the Technovation Challenge and are now beginning a second semester in the program, learning tocreate an application for cell phones that helps to solve a problem in their community. These ladies can cook and now they are learning to code for change! There is truly nothing they cannot do!

The next 6 culinary students began their cooking journey in February. More on their progressto come this Spring.

To learn more about the worldwide Technovation Challenge, please visit:

A big thank you to the ladies and gentlemen over at Smokehouse in Chisinau!

CEO & Founder Deidre Pujols Visits Moldova

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Recently, Open Gate International Founder and CEO Deidre Pujols visited her team and partners on the ground in Moldova. Her visit was perfectly timed, as the first major culinary project officially launched this Fall 2017.

Here is OGI Moldova President Anatol Malancea and Open Gate International Founder and CEO Deidre Pujols standing in front of the “open gate” of the church and new culinary project in the village of Antonesti.

OGI helped a local village church turn a formerly unused garage space into a fully functioning training kitchen. Now, the space is being used to train young women ages 12 to 14 in the culinary arts along with life skills mentorship and community building. The space will also function as an instruction facility for girls from the local school in the culinary arts. The village school previously had no functioning space for such a class, so when the principal heard about the new kitchen, they approached the project for collaboration.

Inside the newly renovated property of the culinary project in the village of Antonesti. This was formerly a storage garage.

Young women in the afterschool program meet for class 3 times per week for the entire semester (September to December – a new class will begin February to May). Classes have an excellent student to teacher ratio of 3 to 1, allowing for ample individualized instruction and quality mentorship time spent together. While the program centers around cooking, the primary goal is mentorship and the building up of self-esteem within each girl – together on the journey to “find their hero within.” Opportunities for personal growth and development are few and far between in the village. The prospect of a career or following dreams outside of the country are often accompanied by substantial physical safety risks. The majority of human trafficking victims in Moldova are from the rural areas where other opportunities are sparse and domestic violence rates are high.

TOP LEFT – Picture of the new student uniforms with OGI logo. 1st Class TOP RIGHT – Picture of the first 6 girls in the program. Class BOTTOM CENTER – Picture of the first 6 girls with Diana and Olga and Deidre.

Some of the girls and Deidre eating birthday cake that was made especially for Deidre’s birthday.

Warmth, friendship, strength, smiles, and singing emanated from the space, the teachers, and the girls.

Open Gate International exists for opportunities such as these, and we aren’t stopping here. From this culinary project, a scholarship program is being launched, encouraging young people from rural regions of Moldova not only to continue their studies, but to return to their villages to begin new endeavors creating opportunities for their families and communities.

More on this new scholarship program to come!

Moldova Safe Summer Wrap Up!

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As you may have read…

read previous post here

Open Gate International had the pleasure of partnering with Strong Foundations Moldova to provide ten young men with some fantastic opportunities this summer.

The program, entitled “Safe Summer” was designed to keep these young men from leaving Moldova in search of work over the summer – thus decreasing their vulnerability to human trafficking and other forms of exploitation.

When the dorms close for the season, many students leave for countries like Russia in search of work. It is illegal for underage youth to work full time in another nation officially, meaning many times, they go and work very hard all summer for little or no pay – labor exploitation.

This program provided them not only with physical safety but also ample opportunities for personal growth and fun!

Repairing a Fence


Some of the Safe Summer guys volunteering their time in a village to fix a woman’s fence that protects her garden from animals.

The woman’s fence is fully repaired! Way to go!


Summer Camp

One of the guys participating in an obstacle course at an extreme camp in Moldova.

Some of the Safe Summer guys at a summer camp in Moldov


Some of the Safe Summer guys giving watermelons to villagers


One of the Safe Summer guys having a little fun while volunteering in a village.

Watch What Safe Summer Means to Them!

Awareness Outreach Northern Moldova

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In the Fall of 2017, Open Gate International had the opportunity to partner with friends from the organization PELERIN in Riscani, a region in northern Moldova. OGI provided the primary funding for the 4-day event, reaching nearly 1,000 young people ages 14-20 and mobilizing over10 volunteers into 5 high school.

Volunteers from PELERIN and partner organization Beginning of Life presented programming focused on purposeful living, self-esteem, and anti-bullying. At the end of the outreach week, 400 of those young people attended a free concert in the region’s cultural center featuring popular Moldovan band, Not An Idol.


This initial outreach prompted a very positive response from 4 of the 5 schools visited. PELERIN has been asked by those administrations to return monthly in 2018 to hold presentations aboutvarious topics including: Drug Use and Addiction, Human Trafficking, Aids/HIV, and Abortion.

The following week, 100 students contacted a local youth outreach to get plugged-in to a healthy, vibrant community called “Youth House” where they will have weekly engagement with positive mentors.

Thank you for your continued support of our work at Open Gate International. Because of you and our partners here on the ground, young people in Moldova are discovering their hero within. Please enjoy this video from the outreach.