Since February 24, 2022, thousands of persons living in Ukraine were forced to leave their homes following the large-scale invasion of the country. Due to the long-shared border, many of them crossed into Moldova: almost a million Ukrainians and third country nationals from Ukraine have transited through Moldova, but 113,000 still remain in the country as of October 2023 (UNHCR).
To address the complex needs of this refugee crisis, especially in the Shelter and Protection sectors, a Consortium led by Acted and in partnership with People in Need (PiN), Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and IMPACT was created in December 2022. The PLACE Consortium is funded by the European Union and aims to aid vulnerable populations affected by the war in Ukraine, as well as vulnerable Moldovans. In this framework, the Acted Protection Case Management team works all around Moldova to provide support to those individuals at risk of being harmed or who have been harmed.
“Home, family, work, friends – life under a beautiful and peaceful sky and nothing seemed to predict danger… but the day came… which divided our lives into before and after…” This is how the story of Olena, one of the participants of Acted Protection Case Management, began. Olena is 39 years old and came to Moldova from the city of Lviv in the spring of 2022 together with her three children in search of safety. She is one of the many people whose life was brutally split on February 24, 2022, into a “before” and “after”. From the first days in Moldova, she felt comfortable and, most importantly, safe. Being welcomed and accepted with great kindness and understanding, she felt supported and encouraged. Initially, Olena and her family lived in a refugee accommodation center (RAC) in Balti. She then moved to a private apartment with the support of her family. Nevertheless, it was hard for Olena to pay rent and, at the same time, take care of her children and her own well-being.
One day, she read in a chat for refugees about Acted’s Protection Case Management assistance and decided to call the hotline to ask for assistance. Shortly after reaching out to the hotline, a case worker from the Acted team based in Edinet, in the North of Moldova, contacted her to set up the first in-person appointment. They met in one of the seven community centers run by local NGOs where the Acted Protection Case Management team meets with beneficiaries in a comfortable and safe environment.
The protection worker was a kind girl who was very attentive and patient with my requests and needs, and immediately after the first meeting and conversation we started to look for ways to solve my problems
The case management process aims at empowering beneficiaries to enhance their independence, supporting them in accessing the services they need and addressing their protection concerns. It is a collaborative process where the beneficiary is individually supported by a case worker who is there to support the person, strengthening the protection factors available in their lives.
After carrying out a thorough protection risk assessment, an Acted case worker understood that the main concerns for Olena in the sectors of shelter and healthcare were stemming from lack of financial means. Therefore, the case worker presented and explained all the financial support programs available in the area, including Acted’s Cash for Rent, a programme that provides financial assistance to cover rent and utilities for six months and which is also part of the PLACE Consortium. Olena applied for the program and got accepted.
Olena’s other immediate need was linked to her aggravating health condition: she needed to urgently undergo an expensive medical checkup screening, for which she had no resources and had no idea where to go for help or who to approach. She had severe pain in her spine, and only after undergoing medical screening the doctors were able to determine the diagnosis and find a suitable treatment.
Thanks to the Acted staff member who steered me in the right direction, in the shortest possible time, we found an organisation that was able to help with the cost of the necessary medical examination, and I was significantly supported financially. The diagnosis was made, and the doctors prescribed a course of effective treatment
After getting the examination and prescriptions for treatment, the Acted case worker referred Olena to yet another organisation that supplied her with all the medications needed to complete the full treatment course.
During this difficult period, I kept in touch with the Acted staff member, who has been very responsive and supported me through everything. I don't know what I would have done without them
Furthermore, in order to improve her emotional state, the Acted case worker helped Olena set up an appointment to receive free psychological assistance with specialists from a local NGO, where she had a series of therapy sessions. Olena was very satisfied with the result.
Now, Olena feels a sense of relief and self-confidence, hopes for a full recovery, and looks forward to the future more positively. She is even thinking of launching her own small family business here in Moldova to become financially independent and provide a decent standard of life for herself and her children. Some opportunities for grants for small businesses were already identified and Olena will be supported in her application process. Through Protection Case Management, Olena found support, hope and a renewed sense of agency. This story once again proves that an informed person is a protected person. Timely assistance can change people's destinies and slowly open the door to a brighter future.