Maria, Alex and Andrei
Maria with sons Alex (left) and baby Andrei
Maria was very young when her Mum died – about four years old she thinks but she’s not sure. Neglected by her alcoholic father, she spent most of her childhood in a loveless orphanage and never learned the life skills she would need to care for her own family.
When our team in Moldova first met Maria, she was 23 years old and in danger of losing her two young boys to an orphanage.
Her oldest boy, Alex, attends a Nursery which is part of a network of services established by Hope and Homes for Children in Moldova to support families whose children are at risk of being placed in institutions. Staff at the nursery noticed that although Alex was always cleanly dressed, his clothes smelled of mould. The family were referred to our partner organisation, CCF Moldova, who arranged to visit Maria but found that she was always out when they called.
Finally, one day, she answered the door. The conditions in the flat were quite terrible. With Maria was little Alex, who she had kept home from nursery because of a cold. The 5th floor flat was dirty, mouldy and beetles scuttled across the floor. The combined smells of mould, damp and dog were overwhelming. Alex sat playing on the floor. He was often bitten by the beetles.
The single room in which the family lived was spartan with a small broken bed in one corner where Maria, then pregnant with Andrei, her partner, Dumitru, and their toddler Alex all slept together. The only other piece of furniture they owned was an old wardrobe with broken doors. There were no chairs or table, and no carpet.
Maria knew that she was in danger of losing her son and her new baby to an orphanage because of their living conditions. The family’s doctor had warned them that this might happen, and this was confirmed by the local authorities. Due to a combination of fear and poverty (Dumitru had no job) she felt directionless and hopeless. How could she ever improve their situation?
At this point, Maria told us her sad story. She’d had a traumatic childhood. Her mum died when she was very small (she can’t remember exactly how old she was) and her father was an alcoholic. Because of his neglect, Maria was placed in a residential institution. Maria describes the time she spent in that institution as the most terrible time of her life.
“They behaved awful with us. They were beating us and did not give us food,” she tells us.
Due to the intervention of an auntie, Maria was transferred to another orphanage with better conditions. There she had the opportunity to go to school and to develop her talent and passion for painting. It was there that she met Dumitru and they have not been apart since.
Our team in Moldova listened to Maria’s story and assessed the family’s situation. They could see that Maria and Dumitru loved their sons and that with the right support, the family could turn their lives around. These are some of the ways we provided support for Maria and her family:
- Provided information so that the family could apply for benefits and a child care allowance.
- Supported Dumitru to find employment. He now works for a retail company.
- Advised the family that keeping a dog in a small flat with children is problematic. The dog now lives with a friend with more space.
- Helped to find partners who have funded the purchase of construction materials to renovate the flat.
- Helped to find supporters and partners who have funded or donated furniture, clothes, milk powder for new baby Andrei, toys, a feeding chair and tricycle.
- Assisted in registering the children at kindergarten and nursery.
Because of these actions the family has been transformed; physically, emotionally and psychologically. Their case manager says, “When I first met Maria, she had little hope for the future. Life was unjust and gloomy for her from the very beginning. Without support they could hardly manage to have bearable conditions for their children and there was a high risk of separation.”
Nowadays, Maria is happy and much more confident, knowing that with our support, her family is not alone with its problems. Most importantly of all, she knows that her sons have been prevented from entering the kind of institution that blighted her childhood.
“Thank you!” Maria says. “You have helped us so much, we couldn’t manage it ourselves. CCF Moldova’s support meant a lot. Now I am happy that my room looks different and the children are next to me. My children are the most precious thing I have!”