“We kind of lived in a state of permanent violence, we had to fight with each other, sometimes even for a piece of bread.”
Olesea was sent to a boarding school in Moldova at just seven-years-old when her family fell into financial difficulties. Here, she was part of a group of around 30 children with only one adult to supervise them. Now at 24-years-old, she speaks about her experience of living in an institution and the negative effect it had on her growing up.
“It is not good for a child to live in an institution because there is not a good quality of education. Also, being there, the children lack being loved and are not getting proper preparation for adulthood.”
Moldova, Europe’s poorest country, had one of the highest rates of institutionalisation in Europe. Like Olesea, most of these vulnerable young people were not orphans but were instead separated from their parents due to poverty. Lumos has been working in the Republic of Moldova since 2006 in co-operation with the Moldovan Government. Since then, the country has implemented major changes to help transform the lives of thousands of children for the better.
After two years in an institution, with help from Lumos, Olesea was finally placed with her foster family who she lived with for seven years.
“I’ve spent almost my entire childhood with them and can say that was the happiest time of my life.” Olesea recalls, “It was there where I found out what love and affection meant, where I got prepared for adult life. There I learned what was good and bad and where I understood how important a family was for a proper development of a child.”
Olesea has gone on to become a community social worker and enrolled herself at university, studying social work. She said: “I’ve chosen this job because I do not want other children to have the same destiny I had.” Olesea continues, “I have a message for everyone: if you really wish for a child to have a better future, help their family to create the necessary conditions for that, instead of donating money to institutions, where they do not belong.”
Thankfully with support from Lumos, Moldova has implemented many changes that has meant the number of children in institutions has reduced by over 88% since 2007. With continued support from donors, Lumos can continue its work with the Moldovan Government, donors, and other organisations, to continue to reduce the number of children like Olesea growing up in institutions.