Dorcas Moldova is used to supporting marginalised groups such as older people and children in its projects, and now it suddenly has to deal with a war next door. Annegreet Ottow from the Dorcas International Office is in Moldova to support and advise the Dorcas team in the Ukrainian crisis response, provide training and visit partners. ‘Providing emergency aid is completely new for the team here’, she says. Dorcas also participates in the larger network of humanitarian organisations in Moldova, including thematic working groups organised within a UN context.
During the first few days after the invasion of Ukraine, things were quite chaotic at the border. Many Moldovans spontaneously went there to bring food and offer shelter in their own homes or in schools and churches.
Things have improved over the past month because large organisations, such as the United Nations, have arrived. At the border, there are now tents where refugees can obtain medical help, food and referrals for shelter. Annegreet’s task is to discover where Dorcas can be of added value in all of this. ‘We have many contacts among the local communities here and support them as best we can. Initially, for example, that meant helping churches distribute food.’
Meanwhile, it has become clear that some Ukrainians are travelling on to Romania or further into Europe. ‘These are usually the wealthier people who have the means to do so. However, a large group of refugees remain in Moldova and hope to return home as soon as possible,’ explains Annegreet. This situation increases the financial pressure on the local population, especially now that the prices of food and electricity are rising in what is already one of the poorest countries in Europe. Due to this development, Dorcas is shifting its focus towards supporting its partners in the longer term.
Psychosocial help and childcare
Many refugees have suffered extremely traumatic events, and the consequences of these experiences need to be dealt with. Dorcas has therefore started to offer mental health and psychosocial help to mothers. In small groups, they share their experiences, discover how to deal with these and learn how to take care of themselves and their children in this situation. Social workers and psychologists that Dorcas Moldova works with in its regular projects supervise these conversations. The children cannot go to school yet, so childcare is organised for them, often through existing Dorcas projects. Although partners are experienced, they are often very small organisations. Dorcas therefore provides financial support and the necessary training for the work they do with the refugees.
Regular projects temporarily on hold
Due to the Ukrainian crisis, the regular projects of Dorcas and its partners have temporarily been put on hold. ‘Everyone was busy putting together food packages or doing other emergency activities. Now we are working hard to expand our team so that we can resume our regular projects as soon as possible’, says Annegreet
Taking care of our own employees
These are also very difficult times for the local Dorcas employees, emphasises Annegreet. ‘They have their private lives here and, like other Moldovans, they’re trying to prepare for what the future might hold.’ People are worried that Russia might invade Moldova too. So they follow the news closely and have their passports ready in case they also have to flee. Furthermore, many of our colleagues here have taken in refugees, which means extra work at home. Dorcas therefore pays particular attention to the well-being of its own employees, for example by providing mental support and ensuring staff take an occasional day off.
24 March 2022