Elena’s husband abandoned his family, leaving her and their three young daughters with nothing.
Elena joined Beginning of Life’s (BoL) programme for single mums, and during her first session she told the team that, due to deep financial problems, she was planning to work abroad and send money back home. She shared “I’m ready to leave the girls behind, in the care of a friend”. This is a common solution to the problem of how to make a living in Moldova. Just accept that you cannot, and make your living elsewhere. Tens of thousands of Moldovan children know what it is to have one or both parents living overseas, long periods bereft of parental contact, living with a grandparent, or another family altogether. Such arrangements are common. The pull for working-age parents to go abroad is strong – so few jobs at home, better prospects and wages abroad. It is like a powerful tide that is always receding, taking the adults and leaving the children on shore. Who can swim against it?
The BoL team were very worried about the children, and realised that Elena was unaware of the real danger to which her daughters would be exposed, so they asked, “do you really want to leave the children behind? Is that what you want?” Without any hesitation she said: “Yes”. It was the only solution she could see. Elena needed options, so BoL began to work with her, and try to show her that there may be another choice, one that meant she could stay with her children, and would allow her to resist the powerful current dragging her away.
In spite of her apparent determination to go abroad, Elena was very active in the programme. She was present for every meeting, week after week, with all three of her daughters. Elena told the team she wanted to build good relationships with her girls before leaving the country, so that communication with them would be better while she was away, hoping that this would help her look after her children from afar.
Serghei Mihailov, Beginning of Life’s Executive Director takes up the story. “Elena spent four months in the mode of thinking about how to prepare her children for her departure but, praise God, she started to change her mind, began to think differently about her plans. We discovered that she is very talented with sewing and textiles, so we proposed that she join the team of women who work in the Art Story shop. And she agreed joyfully. Now she is very active, and skilled in producing soft toys. Elena now makes a living and is able to take care of her girls here in Chisinau. Elena does not think about leaving her daughters anymore! She is more resilient and hopeful”.
Elena’s daughters now take part in one of BoL’s education programmes – Urban Kids, which provides crucial ongoing support for the family. BoL are very happy that we were able to help Elena change her perspective on things and to see hope in what she believed was a hopeless situation, to which she could see only one solution. She is happy with the job and her daughters enjoy being with their mum as well as other children in the programme.
BoL provided a lifeline for Elena and were able to help her swim against that powerful tide. But there is so much more to do. FSCI and Beginning of Life’s new joint project, Building Resilience in Vulnerable Communities, aims to help more families like Elena’s. You can find out more here.