Chisinau, Moldova – On this cold day, hundreds of miles from Ukraine, children are huddled together inside a room. Some are dressed in colorful costumes. The day before they helped their parents set up and decorate the big Christmas tree. “The children said they wish to have a Christmas tree,” Ynira Certan, the Administrator for Moldova's Refugee Accommodation (RAC) said.
For the first time in their life, these children will spend Christmas in a foreign land. None of them would want to leave the comfort and safety of their homes and be away from friends and relatives during one of their most festive holidays. But on this day amidst the uncertainties of their future and the conflict in their country, all of them looked eager and with smiles on their faces.
On top of getting their wish to have a Christmas tree, the children also experienced a semblance of their traditional Christmas celebration. Ukraine’s Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas and his helpers sent them giggling and jumping with excitement. Saint Nicholas gave gifts, toys, and winter jackets to keep them warm throughout the cold season.
Providing winter jackets is part of World Vision winterisation program to ensure people have warm, safe and dignified living conditions and help them weather the winter season. As the program continued, cheerful mood has inspired everyone. Children, parents, and staff were singing and dancing around the Christmas tree. Laughter and joyful conversations filled the room.
Boris Gilca, Head of the Directorate of Health, and Social Services relayed warm welcome from the mayor of Chisinau and the city’s commitment to help. “Here you have temporary shelter, and we are doing our best to make you feel at home. For as long as you are here in Moldova you will have our full support, the Chisinau City Hall will help you.”
We are delighted to see the happy faces of children and their families around the Christmas tree. We will continue to keep you safe and warm this winter and if we can help make one of your difficult days full of cheer and joy, then we have lived up to one of the core values of World Vision.
“There are still a few days until the holiday, but we can already feel the holiday spirit. It will be different because you are away from your families, there's that feeling of unease. But we all hope that the war will soon be over, and you will all come home. You and I can still be friends and see each other throughout our long lives,” Mr. Gilca shared to the children and families during the gathering.
World Vision’s Country Response Director for Georgia, Moldova and Romania Eka Zhvania commended the Chisinau City government, Mr. Gilca and the Social Services team, Ynira Certan and the Patria-Lukoil Refugee Accommodation Center (Cinema RAC) for helping the children and families and supporting Word Vision. “Our sincere appreciation for all the hard work and assistance that you provided to people from Ukraine.”
Ms. Zhvania affirmed World Vision pledge to assist and protect the displaced children and families. “We are delighted to see the happy faces of children and their families around the Christmas tree. We will continue to keep you safe and warm this winter and if we can help make one of your difficult days full of cheer and joy, then we have lived up to one of the core values of World Vision,” she added.
Everyone in the center also received winter boots, blankets, sanitary and hygiene kits and school supplies for the children. The center was provided with heating equipment system, furniture, vacuum cleaners. World Vision also set-up connectivity hub with ten computers so the children can still attend online classes being conducted by their teachers in Ukraine. The Patria-Lukoil Refugee Accommodation Center (Cinema RAC) is being managed and operated by the Chisinau City government.
World Vision’s humanitarian work in Moldova for the Ukrainian refugees and host communities have reached over 32,000 people in 16 districts of the country in partnership with HelpAge, AVE Copiii, Communitas, Food Bank and Step by Step. Overall, World Vision has responded to the needs of over 409,000 refugees, internally-displaced and host families in Georgia, Moldova, Romania and Ukraine.
By Leoniza Morales, Communications Specialist I Photos by Chris Lete and Eugene Combo, Content and Comms Consultants