Transforming child-friendly spaces creatively foster connection between Ukrainian and Moldovan children

The small apartment’s living room was transformed into a classroom as online chats replaced conversations with classmates during breaks. For nine-year-old Angelina and Valeria, 11, a year of online schooling opened opportunities for self-learning.

School closures limited the access to education for 5.3 million Ukrainian children, including 3.6 million children directly affected. Since the war started, over 2,600 schools have suffered damages and over 400 were destroyed in Ukraine.

Living in a town in Odessa Oblast, south-west part of Ukraine, Valeria, and Angelina have experienced air alarms, attacks, and daily fear for their lives.

The two sisters have taken refuge in neighboring Moldova where they continued their education. “Being refugees in a foreign country and attending online school have been challenging experiences for them,” shares mother Irina.

Irina's journey as a mother single-handledly raising her two daughters Angelina and Valeria was a challenging one but finding refuge in Moldova relieved her from her worries.


Moldova’s language and school program are different from Ukraine’s. “It is an additional stress for them to start over studying in another country. That is why we decided for them to continue online,” she explains.

Irina adds, “They are miles apart from their teachers, classmates and friends and spend hours on the computer.” In some classes, they watch videos and self-learn instead of being instructed by a teacher.

“I miss my friends and real social connections,” shares eleven-year-old Valeria. The sisters started attending the child-friendly space (CFS) in Ștefan Vodă, a city in the south-east of Moldova, where they now live.

“The child-friendly area has been a lifeline for them, giving them the opportunity to socialize, meet friends, and connect with other children they have longed for,” says Irina.

A child-friendly setting is more than a place for arts and crafts; it is a transformative environment where Ukrainian and Moldovan children find friendships, practice languages, and feel secure.

The child-friendly space is supported by AVE Copiii, World Vision’s local partner, and sponsored by Nachbar in Not (NiN) and the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC). The project implements protection, non-formal education, and psychosocial support in six centers across Moldova.

“They can have face-to-face interactions and experience a sense of community here. This fills in the gap between their online education and the need for human connection,” explains the Ukrainian mother.

A number of the children’s artworks hanging on the white wall in the CFS with lower right corner of each piece imprinted with two handwritten initials of the children who did them.

“Every child has a collection of their own works of art and craft as evidence of their journey.  This documents their development as we encourage them to explore their own creativity,” says Ludmila Iroș, facilitator in the child-friendly space.

Angelina, 9, and Valeria, 11, play a board game with Lilia Damaschin Rughina, World Vision's project manager of the NiN-funded project in Moldova.


“I like painting courses. After spending the entire day in front of my computer for those online classes, it is a breath of fresh air,” says Angelina with a twinkle in her dark-green eyes. “I feel relaxed using my imagination,” she adds.

Five tables are symmetrically set up in the well-lit area. Shelves are full with books and board games. The left-hand corner with a soft carpet with red and blue pillows is Valeria’s favorite spot where she reads her books. 

“A child-friendly setting is more than a place for arts and crafts; it is a transformative environment where Ukrainian and Moldovan children find friendships, practice languages, and feel secure. This is where they find a sense of belonging,” explains the facilitator.

World Vision has provided education programming for more than 200,200 children in Ukraine, Romania, Moldova, and Georgia. In addition, over 32,000 children have been supported by child protection programs.

Overall, 105 service hubs for Ukrainian refugees and displaced people were established and supported by the World Vision Ukraine Crisis Response.


Download a copy of World Vision's Ukraine Crisis Response latest report here.

Story and photos by Laurentia Jora, Communications Officer