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.

Moldova Safe Summer Update

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Some of our OGI team had the chance to sit down with Mihai Chisari, the Founder of Strong Foundations and director of the Safe Summer Program that OGI is financially sponsoring.

read previous post here

Mihai and his team are preparing to share with us this fall about the powerful impact this project has had on these 10 young men. But before then, here is an update.

OGI’s mission in Moldova is to prevent exploitation through mentorship, vocational training, and job creation, which is why we were so excited to hear that the Safe Summer guys got to spend time with three successful Moldovan CEOs. The purpose of the meetings was to show the boys that there is a future in Moldova, to be inspired, and to hear some very wise words from influential, Moldovan leaders.

Tucano CEO and Guys

Shadowing a barista, server, or cook for the day.

Ruslan Cojocaru is the CEO of Tucano Coffee a multi-national coffeehouse chain and Oliva a restaurant chain, which are both extremely successful Moldovan brands.

Likely, if you are looking for a good cup of coffee or meal while in Moldova, you will be directed to one of his venues. Ruslan spent a generous amount of time talking with our guys, answering questions, and offering encouragement. He also gave them a big surprise and sent them in small groups to Tucanos and Olivas throughout Chisinau to shadow a barista, server, or cook for the day. This was an exciting and unexpected treat.

The guys got to hear from Moldovan employees directly about working at Tucano and Oliva, while also trying their hand at making some tasty drinks and, of course, eating pizza!

Tandem CEO and Guys

Or Corneliu is the CEO and Co-Founder of Tandem, a thriving, Made-in-Moldova, high end furniture company that ships all over Europe.

The boys hear examples of ways they may subconsciously limit their greatness. Then they walk on glass unharmed, proving that sometimes when we are afraid we may believe we cannot do something.

A charismatic teacher, Or gave examples of the ways the young men subconsciously limit their greatness. He had them guess how many time they could jump up and down on one leg in 60 seconds. Once they had their numbers in mind, he timed them. When he yelled “stop,” every boy reported jumping at least twice as many times as he had originally thought he could! And then Or revealed – what they thought was 60 seconds was only 30 seconds! He even had them walk on glass, proving that sometimes when we are afraid we may believe we cannot do something, but if we try we just might find out that our fear was making us believe a lie. Each boy that was willing, walked across the glass unharmed! He likened this to the fear and lies that many believe about their futures in Moldova. Or and his team explained all of the different processes in the factory, including how workers move up in the company. They encouraged the boys to keep Tandem in mind when they finished their studies.

The CEO of Darwin and the guys

Andrian Cojocaru is the CEO of Darwin a high-end electronics chain founded in Moldova.

Darwin is the go-to company for those seeking specialized items or brands from the West. Andrian, the brother of Tucano CEO Ruslan, spent about 45 minutes with the guys giving special encouragement about attending vocational schools in Moldova. He emphasized the importance of reading and gaining knowledge while answering questions about who he hires and why. After the meeting the guys were split up between two stores where they shadowed sales associates and were able to ask questions about how the business operates day to day. At the conclusion each guy was given a ticket to a big color festival and concert that Darwin sponsored.

Shadowing sales associates

Needless to say, these experiences will have a lasting impact.

We don’t want reveal too much here, as Mihai and his team are very excited to share specific examples of each guys process this summer. One thing is for sure, not only are they keeping safe, they are learning how to stay safe, healthy, and productive for the rest of their adult lives.

A huge thanks to Mihai and the rest of his amazing team!