The answer is: Moldova.
The question is: What is the most destitute country in Europe?
And the category is: Needless Suffering.
That’s how it might go if this were the game show Jeopardy. But life in a place like Moldova is far from a game.
A former Soviet republic that declared its independence in 1991, Moldova has struggled in its transition to democratic governance and a market economy. It has weathered three economic collapses, each as devastating as the Great Depression.
Due to poverty, unemployment, weak rule of law and widespread corruption, Moldova is now a major country of origin for trafficking in human beings. Most victims are Moldovan women and children, sold into the sex-slave industry, but also trafficked for forced labor, begging, petty crime and organ harvesting.
Catholic Relief Services first arrived in Moldova in 2004 to begin reaching out to young people, particularly women, living in remote villages throughout the country. We are working in parish social ministry, which improves local churches’ ability to provide for the poor and vulnerable in their communities. We are also providing young women with job training and other opportunities that reduce the need to choose high-risk offers often used by traffickers.
At the center of our efforts is the Jobs Plus program, which provides sheltered employment training for rural women at risk, jobs for the unemployed, and cash incomes for impoverished families. Besides job skills, the program teaches these young women how to make a household budget, and to prioritize and maintain savings. It empowers women and other villagers to improve the quality of life in their communities by undertaking self-financed community improvement projects.
Over the last four years, CRS Moldova has created 800 jobs for vulnerable women and has plans to create more than 2,000 additional jobs over the next three years. This project is funded with support from the Argidius Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the COFRA Group, an international corporation.
Jobs Plus has had a transformational effect in the lives of the women who have completed the training. You can read their stories on our website . Marina Svarciuc was a young widow who had no way to support herself and her twin children. After training with Jobs Plus, she got a job at the deli counter at a local grocery store. And she has big plans. She intends to study business administration and economics with an eye to becoming a manager.
After Olessa Rozovel fled and divorced an abusive husband, she lost her means of supporting her three children. Life is especially tough in Moldova for single mothers. Olessa faced the grim prospect of leaving her children in the care of others to seek work abroad. But through Jobs Plus, she was able to get work as a seamstress in a newly built clothing factory in her village. CRS is committed to working with companies that care for their employees: the factory is clean, well-lit and has the only flush toilets in the village. Says Olessa, “I am building my own life.”
Through your generous support to CRS, women like Marina and Olessa can live a life of dignity and do not need to submit themselves to exploitation and degradation.
Thank you for your continued support and your prayers.