Together to success: the first year of the project Building resilience through engagement and social cohesion

As of June 2023, Helvetas Moldova is running the project “Increasing Resilience through Employment and Social Cohesion,” implemented with HEKS/EPER Moldova and with the support of the Swiss Government. The project targets eight districts in the Republic of Moldova: Chisinau, Ialoveni, Anenii Noi, Balti, Soroca, Drochia, Edinet, and Ocnita.

The project aims to facilitate the access of socio-economically vulnerable people, including refugees from Ukraine, to a decent income through inclusion in the labor market. At the same time, the project promotes cohesion in society between Ukrainian refugees and vulnerable Moldovans, who often face the same difficulties and share the same ambitions.

At the end of its first phase, the project supported more than 600 beneficiaries in the eight districts with free vocational, language, and entrepreneurship training opportunities. In addition, the project has provided financial assistance to 19 state kindergartens to expand and modernize their educational services, contributing to the parent’s work-life balance.

Start in business

Over 60 socially vulnerable Moldovans and Ukrainian refugees benefited from intensive business startup training organized by Helvetas Moldova and facilitated by the Association for Entrepreneurship Training and Development (AFAD) in Chisinau, Balti, and Edinet.

Participants learned how to develop and manage their businesses and received support and inspiration to become independent entrepreneurs for ten days. Iryna Sinokos, originally from Odessa, took part in the training in Chisinau and is glad to have had the opportunity to develop her business idea in an inclusive and accessible environment: “It is great that the training is in both Russian and Romanian, and there is support from the trainers,” Iryna said.

The most promising business plans developed during the training were supported by startup grants, thus providing concrete support for the growth of local economic initiatives. One of the beneficiaries of the startup grants is Maxim Plesco from Otaci, Ocnita district. A member of the local Roma community, Maxim works as a mediator in the Ocnita City Hall, although his dream was to open a carpet washing business.

This dream materialized once he attended the business training and the startup grant, which gave him the impetus and knowledge to open his business. Maxim has invested the grant in professional carpet washing equipment and hopes that through his newly launched business, he could create new jobs for the Roma community he comes from.

Developing skills for the labor market

In addition to the business training, Helvetas Moldova, in partnership with AFAD, organized vocational and language training courses in the eight districts covered by the project.

The courses came in response to the need for training and retraining on the Moldovan labor market, both for locals and Ukrainian refugees settled here. The organizers designed the course format with the responsibilities of adult life in mind, which most beneficiaries manage in their daily lives. Thus, the courses focus on acquiring practical knowledge in the shortest possible time, with the longest courses lasting up to 3 months.

Thanks to the diverse range of courses on offer – from accountancy to hairdressing and electrical welding – over 200 beneficiaries have had the chance to discover their passions and develop new professional skills in a supportive and accessible environment. Among these beneficiaries was Victoria Kovalchuchenko from the city of Balti, who took the course in car mechanics: “I have always been interested in cars. My motivation for taking this course is to understand cars better, to be able to own my car, and if it breaks down, to be able to repair it myself. I would like to open my car service,” said Victoria.

In addition to vocational courses, another 200 beneficiaries took English and Romanian language courses to increase their opportunities in the labor market. Language courses can also support social integration, as the example of Sofia Plesca from Edinet proves. By taking the Romanian language course, Sofia has found it much easier to find her way around the medical services in the city, and, to her great joy, she can now help her grandchildren with their Romanian homework.

Accessible and inclusive early childhood education

Another important initiative within the project was financial support to state kindergartens in rural and urban areas to expand educational services.

Through this support, 19 kindergartens in 8 districts of the country were able to improve their infrastructure and provide a better educational environment for children, including Ukrainian children. Through these measures, parents can re-enter the workforce, knowing that their little ones are in a safe and well-equipped environment.

By applying for the project offered by Helvetas Moldova, we obtained a grant of 5,000 Swiss Francs, which enabled us to have the windows replaced in the kindergarten. We plan to open starting next school year, said Irina Tripadush, the director of kindergarten no. 35 in Balti, one of the educational institutions benefiting from Helvetas Moldova’s assistance.

Another child-focused initiative within the project was the drawing contest “What I want to be when I grow up,” launched by Helvetas Moldova on Facebook. Through their artistic creations, more than 100 children and teenagers illustrated their dreams and career aspirations, offering a fascinating glimpse into the future of the workforce and the directions the new generations can take.


A graduation party

To crown the first year of the project specially and celebrate the successes of the beneficiaries, Helvetas Moldova with AFAD organized a graduation ceremony in Balti on 23 June 2024.

The organizers dedicated the event to approximately 660 Moldovans and Ukrainian refugees who accepted the challenge to step out of their comfort zones and seize control of their futures through vocational training, language courses, and entrepreneurship training. Organizers officially graduated more than 100 trainees in front of their family members and project teams.

“Our graduation ceremony serves several purposes. Firstly, we celebrate the successes of our beneficiaries and make this moment special. Secondly, we facilitate interactions between beneficiaries and introduce them to our implementation team from Helvetas and AFAD. Finally, this event promotes social cohesion. By gathering here today, we are fostering a sense of belonging and potential collaborations,” said Carolina Untila, project manager of the “Increasing Resilience through Employment and Social Cohesion” project at Helvetas Moldova.

“We have behind us a beautiful experience and many beneficiaries with significant achievements, which inspired us to organize this event dedicated to them, together with Helvetas Moldova. At the same time, this event will be an opportunity for socializing between beneficiaries, partners, and the project team in a relaxed, family atmosphere”, said Tatiana Puga, AFAD President.

In addition to the graduation ceremony itself, the 250 people present at the event enjoyed recreational activities, workshops and exhibitions, various tasty delicacies, and children enjoyed entertainers and interactive games.

Project beneficiaries were present not only as graduates but were also involved in the event organization. Graduates of the beauty courses offered make-up and face-painting masterclasses for children, while other beneficiaries presented their products or activities in the exhibition area.

What will the project bring next?

The “Increasing Resilience through Employment and Social Cohesion” project continues with its second phase, starting this month. Over the next 12 months, Helvetas Moldova, together with implementing partners, will consolidate the efforts and results of the first phase of the project, with a focus on supporting vulnerable people in Moldova, including refugees from Ukraine.

During the project’s second phase, the advocacy campaign will highlight diverse community leaders. These leaders will undergo training, mentoring, and support to effectively mobilize and inspire communities nationwide. The Helvetas Moldova and AFAD teams have already started “recruiting” potential community leaders at the graduation event. An open call for nominations will launch in August, inviting individuals to either self-nominate or nominate others as potential community leaders.

In the long term, the project aims to contribute to improving the quality of life and the social and economic integration of vulnerable people by empowering them and facilitating their access to the labor market: “We aim to help vulnerable people – and refugees as a special category – not to depend on humanitarian assistance, but to be independent, gain confidence and skills to achieve prosperity and the right job for everyone,” emphasizes Clara Abdullah, communications officer at Helvetas Moldova.

The project “Increasing Resilience through Employment and Social Cohesion” is implemented in the consortium by Helvetas Moldova and HEKS/EPER Moldova, with the financial support of the Government of Switzerland. The project’s strategic implementing partners are the Association for Entrepreneurship Training and Development and the National Agency for Employment.

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