Monday, December 29, 2008

The Mighty Mighty Update
The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps, of which I am a proud volunteer.

Lest you think I have spent all my time since the November 5th (in Romania) election results (4:45 a.m. to be exact) gazing into the distance with teary eyes and a sappy grin - here's what I've been up to. I'm sure some of you have already heard about it - or seen some of the pictures.

Stand by for the upcoming 2008 A Year in Review Personal Survey! and Happy New Year, everyone!

Hello all, Happy Holidays to all! As donors and friends supporting our event here in Romania, we wish to give you this overview of the weekend. Attached is a slide show of photos with helpful captions to guide you.

And here's our project on the Romanian news, although two more news stations covered us, we don't have the links and haven't seen the clips. Pay no attention to that girl speaking English who is waving around a pamphlet for the Peace Corps Institutional Development Program.

By the Numbers:
  • 20 kindergarten - high school groups came to perform carols, dances, poetry, and skits on Christmas themes.
  • 20 NGOs came representing various causes and organizations: orphanages, Parkinson's Disease, the Handicapped, Women's Shelters, and more.
  • 12 Peace Corps Volunteers were in attendance
  • 2 Newspapers and 3 TV stations covered the event - both local and national
  • 400 people voted in our Christmas Tree Contest
  • 1 Gingerbread Castle was on display
  • 20 Christmas NGO Christmas Trees entered the Christmas Tree Contest
  • 2 out of 20 middle schoolers won in a simultaneous game against a national chess champion
The Gingerbread Castle and Decoration:
The event was a success with a lot of work put in by volunteers of various nationalities and ages. For the construction of the gingerbread dough, 12 of us gathered at a bread factory to use their large ovens and mixing machines. We had 2 Mormons working in Deva with us, 3 women from a Catholic organization coming from Argentina and France and the U.S., a Romanian-Hungarian as photographer, and the usual assortment of PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers).

Later that same weekend, we had two girls from Austria come to help us and 10 teenage Red Cross volunteers create posters for the event. About 4 of those same volunteers later came on three separate weekends to help us put up tables and chairs, hang the posters, garland, and lights, and put the finishing touches on the gingerbread castle.

Micah and I worked at the castle over three weekends. It's finishing touches were applied over one all night session at the castle. Micah had to ensure a steady stream of Aretha Franklin to remain oblivious to the fact that I was one of two people within those cavernous, cold, and creepy walls. A reality show once recorded there looking for ghosts and other supernatural phenomenon. It's obvious why. It doesn't get creepier then a medieval castle at night.

Wrap Up
Micah and I are still in the process of contacting winners from the children's coloring contest, NGO winners of the Christmas Tree Contest, and delivering certificates to our many volunteers. She will be on her way here for the holidays when we will gather all our materials from our October Skills Sharing Meeting to provide NGOs along with our survey. Those of you who donated to our event can also expect an official report as called for by PCPP funding rules. We are both very happy to have the event done with and have all of you to thank for it. I especially wish to thank our parents for their support. My mom donated Santa hats for all our volunteers and Halloween candy (with Reese's peanut butter cups!!!) for free games, among other gifts and her father gave generously to our fundraiser. My folks helped close the funding gap at the close to our fund raising time frame and helped me out this month as telephone and travel costs went over our usual stipend.

Future Event Prospects
We're now in the process of evaluating the success of the event by surveying participating NGOs. We hoped to draw NGOs together in a collaborative spirit and offer the public an opportunity to learn about the good works that NGOs provide. To this end, with a total of 5-600 visitors and lots of news coverage, we felt this goal to be well reached. We were very impressed by the professionalism of the NGO's games and Christmas trees. We had given them lots of suggestions and photographs to work from, and many of them took our ideas to the full degree. Because of their efforts, the event had a very strong and professional look. We'll soon find out if they would do it again next year. Preliminary feedback from the orgs has been positive. Micah and I are both trying to extend, but prospects for us being here next December are unlikely. We will provide the castle with a guide on how we organized the event, however we hope to find a leader among our invited NGOs to perhaps take the lead in organizing for next year.

Lessons Learned
Something this big cannot be done without its fair share of lessons learned. We have a much clearer idea now of the best way to build a gingerbread castle. I know now just how important it is to put performers and NGOs into one place. Getting an audience and performers together in a place as large as our castle is no small feat.

Thanks all who supported us!