Cash program empowers Ukrainian refugees in Moldova to stand on their own while helping others

It was a cold, rainy day when Polina and her pregnant daughter, along with her two children, crossed the border into Moldova in March 2022, coming from Odessa Oblast, southwest Ukraine.

“We were so terrified of what was coming next. Even though we tightly clutched our umbrellas, the rain was pouring all over us,” recalled Polina. She added, “To keep the kids and our luggage from getting wet, we covered them, but no luck, the downpour was too heavy.”

Moldovan volunteers sheltered them under the roof of the makeshift tents, served them hot tea and provided warm meals. “We were fortunate that a volunteer offered us his home, so we only had to pay for utilities,” explained Polina with a gentle smile on her face.

Currently, there are 8.1 million Ukrainian refugees, which is reportedly equivalent to at least 18.8% of the entire Ukraine population. Like Polina, 108,885 Ukrainians settled in neighboring Moldova, a host country that also faces energy, economic, and political crisis, making it difficult for refugees to find a job to cover their living expenses.

Along with other volunteers, Polina organizes food and hygiene items in containers at the warehouse, ensuring they are properly stored.


As the situation in Ukraine remained highly unstable, Tetiana, Polina’s daughter, had to give birth to her third child in Moldova. In a state where living costs keep rising, Polina had to find a way to support the four members of her family while her daughter was on maternity leave.

Struggling to find a job, she became a volunteer at the refugee accommodation center in Chisinău, the country’s capital, and dedicated her time serving fellow Ukrainians. In December 2022, Polina joined World Vision’s cash-for-work program funded by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC). It enabled her to earn income for work to support her family.

“My workday starts early in the morning with answering phone calls,” explains Polina. As the phone rings, she patiently guides refugees through the registration process explaining how to reach the distribution points. She is prompt, diligent and professional in her work.

After a dozen of phone requests, Polina heads to the warehouse. In the cold, cramped basement, under the flickering light of a bulb, she carefully organizes food and hygiene items in brown cardboard containers, assisted by other volunteers.

My family has benefited greatly from World Vision's financial assistance. Apart from getting compensated for helping my fellow Ukrainians, I also get to work on something I love, which gives me purpose and peace of mind.

The process is completed quickly. Everyone evenly distributes the many packages and goods. A lively atmosphere prevails in the warehouse. People put in a lot of effort. Polina rushes back to the office to answer the many messages buzzing on her phone, providing details on registration, schedules, and available resources.

“My next step is to create groups and add people I have contacted to these groups, registering them for support,” she explains. “Each week, Polina responds to hundreds of calls, which requires a lot of patience and commitment. Her strong work ethic is admirable.

When an issue arises, she is always there to offer a solution,” says Tatiana Ianciu, the Project Coordinator at the Communitas Psycho-Social Center, World Vision’s local partner, where Polina works.

“Everyone at the center became my family – workers, volunteers, Ukrainian mothers, and their children. When they first arrived, the Ukrainian women were emotionally distant. After spending some months at the center, I could see a growing flicker of hope on their faces.” says Polina.

Tetiana, Polina's daughter and her three children, Polina (12), Sergei (6) and Daniil (8 months), at the Communitas Centre. Tetiana gave birth to her third child in Moldova, away from the war's horrors.


She continues with a shimmer in her dark-brown eyes, “I noticed a tiny light in their eyes. They danced and laughed while taking part in the events. Knowing that I can help in some small way to enhance their daily lives, encourages me to work even harder with more devotion.”

Polina added, “My family has benefited greatly from World Vision's financial assistance. Apart from getting compensated for helping my fellow Ukrainians, I also get to work on something I love, which gives me purpose and peace of mind.”

As of today, World Vision has reached 103,548 people with cash and voucher programs, supporting Ukrainian refugees and host communities in Georgia, Moldova, Romania, and Ukraine.

In partnership with the World Food Programme, Communitas, Food Bank, Step by Step, HelpAge, and AVE Copiii, World Vision has provided humanitarian assistance to 60,334 individuals in 32 districts of Moldova, responding to the needs of Ukrainians and hosting families.

Also read: Cash program helps Ukraine's internally displaced prepare for winter

Story and photos by Laurentia Jora, Communications Officer