A Refugee Support team went to Moldova to support the country and the many Ukrainians who had fled there. Within 12 days, we had identified an essential need they could fill, formed partnerships, found a location and started distributing aid with dignity.

What did we create?

Our friends at another grassroots group – Moldova for Peace – are referring Ukrainian people who are living in Moldovan homes to us so they can collect food and hygiene items from our ‘Market’. Each family has a budget of points they can ‘spend’ in our Dignity Market so that they can collect free food and hygiene items.

We opened on 21 March 2022.

What have we done?

From when we opened mid-March to October 1st:

• We have served over 27,000 people
• 37% of them have been children
• 78% of the adults have been women
• 13% of the adults have been 65+ years old

We distributed over €120,000 of food and hygiene items in our first 4 months of operation. Everything has been sourced locally from Moldovan companies.

We are committed to continuing to help in Moldova as long as we have the funds to do so.

Why use a Market to distribute free food and hygiene items?

Free food and hygiene are an important contribution to what Ukrainian people need and also support the generous Moldovans who have welcomed them in. Most important of all, people get a choice, experience a bit of normality and deal with volunteers who really care.

In this video from June, volunteer Jonathan describes how the Dignity Centre operates and speaks with fellow volunteers and members about the value of the work.

See the Dignity Market Chisinau in action and notice: people carefully choosing what they want, checking labels, partners deciding together, putting stuff back, chatting to volunteers, constant shelf dressing, basically the whole normality and beauty of it all:

It is not charity – it is dignity.

Help us help Moldovans and Ukrainians

With your help, we can serve over 1,000 Ukrainians every week in this way. And at the same time, we are supporting the wonderful Moldovan people.

It is not just material support that is needed. What makes us different is how we do what we do. We have pioneered an approach where everything we do is driven by respecting the dignity of the people we support.

Upholding people’s dignity is the most important thing we can do.

You can see how we went about setting up in this little video story here:

Video by Bob Maddams and Paul Hutchings

You can help

You can donate to our Ukraine appeal here

How did we set about it?

Our initial team are all highly experienced at providing emergency support to refugees and arrived late on 10 March. They spent 5 days doing their initial needs assessment, talking to as many people as possible.

This is what we know:

  • Almost all people crossing are women, children and older people as men of fighting age are staying in Ukraine
  • They are mostly transiting through Moldova and continuing their journey to other countries
  • This first arrival of people are those who have the resources to travel out of Ukraine and on to other countries
  • Some people are remaining in Moldova because they hope to return quickly, want to wait for friends and family, are recovering from illness or
  • The local response has been very strong both at the national level and at the local level morally and practically
  • The local response can’t be sustained: people are going to run out of time, resources and capacity. They are already feeling the strain
  • Most people and resources are in the capital Chisinau with significant logistical difficulties operating in the South

Paul is recording regular videos about his progress which you can watch here.

After considering many options, we have secured a location to do food distribution in Chisinau city centre, close to the railway station. We found it on day 5, signed a contract on day 6 and took possession on day 8. We then cleaned it, stocked it, designed a distribution system, formed a close partnership with a local grassroots organisation and started serving people on day 12.