A glance, it seems, is pretty much all I got in the nine days I was there. Even so, there is much more to say than I can fit into a single blog post – but I will try!
Eric Weiner, in his book “The Geography of Bliss”, claims that Moldova has the world’s most unhappy people. Another article states it this way: “Landlocked between Romania and the Ukraine, Moldovans lack a solid sense of identity, pride of nation and hope for the future. That, along with grinding poverty, help explain why as many as one-quarter of all Moldovans live and work abroad, sending back the remittances that keep this country afloat.” I will add that this sentiment was corroborated by my Moldovan friends. The Moldovan emigration may keep people going back home, but it represents a brain drain of epic proportions. Moreover, it is really hard for people to want to invest and develop in a place where everyone’s dream is to leave.
This trip was different than most I’ve taken in that it was purely a vision trip. I was invited by a businessman colleague who is interested in integrated holistic development in Moldova – health being one component of that approach. We met with MANY many leaders, pastors, and organizations addressing various issues and needs in the city and countryside.
The human trafficking situation in Moldova is dire. Because of poverty and the myriad other “push” factors, Moldovans are at great risk of being trafficked (for sex and labor), and many many are. There aren’t any hard and fast figures to post, but it is known as one of the major source countries to Europe, the Middle East, and beyond. There isn’t much of a “red-light” district in Chisinau, the capital. As one Moldovan (who runs an after care facility and a trafficking prevention program) put it, “Why would the men pay for sex when there are many women in bars willing to give it for free?”
One of these organizations, Beginning of Life, also has a robust trafficking prevention program, with access to all the schools in Chisinau for teaching on subjects such as sexual abuse, rape, domestic violence, etc. Check out their website – I don’t have to write it all here!
From what I could see, there are two aftercare shelters for trafficked women run by NGOs, and I was able to spend time at both. There is one shelter for minor girls that is run by the government, and possibly other government shelters for women as well – will have to look into this on the next trip.
In 2001, there were 12,000 children registered as living in “orphanages”, a.k.a government institutions for children with “special needs” or from families who are unable or unwilling to care for them. Some are children “left behind”: their parents have gone somewhere to work and no family is left (or willing) to care for them. Only a few of these have significant special mental or physical needs and they are put into separate institutions. Most of the children come from environments of abuse or neglect, and have minor mental or emotional or learning problems. Due to pressure for European Union “readiness”, there is a push for de-institutionalization of at least half of the children cared for by the government. While living in one of these “boarding schools” is wrought with problems, simply dumping children on the streets is not exactly a good solution. Many organizations are currently working with children within these institutions, as well as providing “transitional care” for children over 16 years old – when they “age out” of the institutions, but are not ready to be fully integrated to society. These young people have the greatest risk for being trafficked.
I took my medical kit, but there seemed to be no acute interest in having me do any medical evaluations on anyone. I thought it was strange, but I suppose the medical system and attitude toward medical care is different.
There is some amazing work going on in Moldova – but it seems
Highlights of the week include:
- Meeting a kindred spirit in a new Moldovan friend: a single woman physician involved in full-time ministry.
- Getting lost in a Moldovan forest and how I found my way back! This story is good for it’s own post.
- Vineyards are EV.VER.RY.WHERE! Got handed a bag of grapes fresh off the vine by friendly harvesters. Another time, gleaning grapes with a local pastor as we walked through a vineyard post harvest.
- A visit with a countryside pastor who is doing amazing work mobilizing his church to care for the “left-behind” elderly in the surrounding villages.
- Invitations to return to provide more in-depth training on health issues to the human trafficking aftercare and prevention work being done on the ground. Anyone want to join me? Let me know!