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!

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!

Open Gate International Hosts Training for Moldovan Friends Who Open Their Gates to Vulnerable Youth

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It was a 19 hour, intensive training for Moldovans working with children who have experienced trauma. Alex, Natalia, and Tabita from The Romania Without Orphans Alliance (ARFO) drove the 10-hour journey from west of Bucharest to Chisinau to present over the three days, in the Romanian language. The room contained a beautiful compilation of professionals and lay people, all dedicated to a similar call: competent compassion. In English, the title of the training is translated “Becoming a Trauma Competent Caregiver” and was designed by professional counselors, pastors, and social workers from the USA. This same training is used in orphan care settings all over the globe in an effort to better equip those working with traumatized youth. Trainees gain understanding of the goals of child welfare, essential skills of competent caregiving, and the possible effects of trauma upon a child’s development. They will also learn how to recognize the effects of ongoing stress, identify positive coping responses, teach new skills, and promote effective self-care for caregivers to decrease burnout.

In short, compassion is not compassionate unless it is also competent. It is quite trendy to say that love is all we need. This training helps those working with the most vulnerable take into consideration that our help (our good intentions) can also hurt, unless we deeply examine ourselves and make every effort to understand better the spiritual, emotional, educational, physical, and social needs of those we serve.


A combination of intensely difficult home lives (poverty, domestic abuse, neglect) and also a good number of children who were raised in institutions across the former Soviet Union, has created a generation of immensely vulnerable young people in Moldova. This phenomenon is not limited to Moldova, reports from across the USA reveal that large percentages of children rescued from child trafficking were also in our foster care system. Children who are without the presence of just one caring adult in their lives, be it a mentor, coach, teacher, pastor, foster parent, family member, or adoptive parent are far more likely to be exploited. This is a worldwide truth.

The people represented in the room were pastors and future pastors, adoptive parents, foster families, NGO leaders, psychologists and social workers, firefighters and first responders, camp counselors, after school program directors and mentors. Each one represents unlimited potential to positively impact the life a child a risk here in Moldova.


Of the 32 trainees, 26 returned their feedback forms. All of them reported that the content was relevant, clear, and applicable. They also expressed deep appreciation for the practicality of the training, with a good combination of theory and practice, as well as the ability of our main facilitator, Alex, to relate with the group. Alex and Natalia are married and have adopted 4 children in their home country of Romania. Their funny, yet honest, heartfelt and compelling experiences both challenged and encouraged everyone in the room. The training ended with a certification ceremony and graduation gift of the tremendously important work co-authored by the late Dr. Karen Purvis entitled, “The Connected Child,” which has been translated into Romanian. Here are a few testimonies from the training (translated from Romanian):

“This time of training was recharging and refueling for us, it was practical at the same time. I think we also learned we are not alone in this work, as we see all these other organizations and individuals here. We also see that we can apply what others have already learned and how it is working. I would like to say if you have further trainings, we want to be a part of this.”
– A Pastoral Counselor

“(A respected senior pastor from Moldova speaking to the rest of the trainees) It is up to us, what will we do with this. With courage, be sensitive to what God is speaking in your heart. The kids, orphans and others, need us. All of us are here for a reason… I believe that trainings like these for Moldovan families, will be just extraordinary!… Before we told our kids that they cannot speak about the past, but the realization is we need to address the past in order to heal. We can’t just talk about orphan care, we need to do what we are learning. Let’s bring together Moldovan families and share what we have learned and what are the joys of this work to call others into it.”

“In our project, we help biological and social orphans, and we are always having a goal to teach and educate them on how to live independently… but after these days of training, I realize that this is only part of what we must do. We must work to bring healing to these children (holistically). Also, I don’t have a family of my own yet, but when I do, I want to adopt a child. This conference has encouraged me further in that. Thank you.”
– Psychologist

“As we have sat and received this training… we are taking a break from our everyday jobs dealing with crisis… and we are just now realizing, after three days of rest and reflection, those trees are beautiful outside, the branches and the green leaves… (referencing the self-care module) you have to help yourself first before you can help others.”
– Military Psychologist

“Many say that you cannot work with these kids (orphans) because you don’t have the time or patience. But after these three days, I am realizing, it is possible!”
– Trainee

The Strong Foundations Summer Program Empowers!

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Open Gate International has been honored with the opportunity to partner with Temelii Tari (Strong Foundations), a Moldovan NGO, through sponsorship of its Safe Summer Program.

Over the last eight years, Mihail Chisari, the founder of Strong Foundations, has played a large role in the transformation of young men (social orphans and the vulnerable) from villages and cities across Moldova. His organization provides a valuable, structured program to largely unsupervised youth. In addition, with the school year ending and dormitories closing, these young men are tempted to seek full-time employment outside of Moldova due to many factors that contribute to youth unemployment. This often times means hard work, with little or no pay, and puts these young men at high risk of labor trafficking throughout Russia, Turkey, Israel, or other countries.

Strong Foundations summer program will utilize a hands on approach of two, full-time mentors to empower the young men by providing valuable life skills such as hygiene, conflict management, independent living, giving back to society, how to write a resume, and other positive, healthy habits. Along with the life skills portion of the summer program, the beneficiaries will be housed with the mentors in order to provide safe, structured living conditions.

One main component of the program includes the development of personal and social responsibility through helping the elderly. These outreaches will teach the youth that thinking of others and giving back is important to personal maturity.

Open Gate International believes that the Strong Foundations summer program is consistent with our mission and we are overwhelmed at the opportunity to partner for the summer. More updates to come as stories of growth and transformation are sure to follow.