War in Ukraine leaves millions displaced
young girl with a small smiling

Better at Home

by Stefan Babalau, CERI Case Manager in Moldova

Thirteen years ago, Olga and Nicolai were young parents of three, struggling to provide for their children. Olga and Nicolai were homeless and worked as day laborers doing mostly seasonal jobs. Their extended family insisted they take Maria, their third daughter, to an orphanage. They argued that without a stable income and a place to stay, they were unable and unqualified to care for one more. Despite the pressure, Olga continued caring for all three children and Nicolai did all he could to feed his family of five.

The family struggled. Without jobs and a place to call their own, their goal was simply to survive.

Olga asked her family and community for help, but ressources were scarce in post-Soviet Moldova. When Maria turned three, her mother found a job at a small bakery. The job came with a single room apartment in an abandoned building. Months later, the bakery went into bankrupcy, however, the family was able to keep their housing. Persistent requests to the town’s city hall resulted in a second room, next to the one they already had.

Although the building didn’t have running water, plumming, heating, proper windows and doors, the ownership of these two rooms felt like a victory for Olga and Nicolai.  

A year later, the town opened a day center for vulnerable children, supported by CERI. The center provided a hot lunch, life skills trainings and educational opportunities to children at risk of being abandoned. Maria and her two sisters, Vera and Valentina, attended the day center.

That year, the situation in their family started changing.

Their home improved dramatically and their lives were transformed. The family experienced the comfort and safety of their own home and were able to finally focus on the girls’ education and development.Olga and Nicolai continued to work as day and seasonal laborers. However, with support from a CERI sponsor, over the course of two years, the family installed new windows and doors, built an indoor heating unit, connected the pipes to a water well and purchased an automatic washing machine.

Maria and her sisters say the biggest change that happened during those two years was when they realized their own potential and started pursuing their dreams. The sisters’ school performance and outlook in life improved. Vera started technical college to study clothing design and Valentina, following in the steps of her older sister, is preparing for her admission exams at the same school.

Maria started taking dance classes. Fast forward to 2019, Maria has participated in numerous shows and several regional dance competitions, won several awards and is enjoying the friendship and admiration of her community. Her extended family, once hostile, now proudly watches her performances and tells everyone she is one of their own.

Today, Maria is a typical 13-year-old. She lives at home, goes to school and follows her dream of becoming a professional dancer.


You can help other families like Maria’s stay together and provide the best for their children. Because life is always better at home.

Meet children like Maria and help them grow at home.

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