“I didn’t see peace and calm in any refugee’s eyes. I saw only frightened looks.” For six months, Aliona has learned what it’s like to work in humanitarian aid👩

Published: Aug 18, 2022 Reading time: 4 minutes
“I didn’t see peace and calm in any refugee’s eyes. I saw only frightened looks.” For six months, Aliona has learned what it’s like to work in humanitarian aid👩
© Foto: Diana Grădinaru, asistentka komunikace

“People in Need focuses on disadvantaged groups, and I’ve always wanted to dedicate my work to the people in the community where I live, to do something that could help them, especially those who, for various reasons, can’t afford a decent living and need our support. That’s why I decided to join the People in Need’s Moldova team and do my best to contribute to a better life for my peers.”

Aliona Plugaru has more than 20 years of professional experience in the NGO sector. She initially managed a community development small grants programme in northern Moldova. Aliona has done pioneering work, teaching people in the remotest villages of Moldova what civil society is and how to develop and get projects that address community problems concerning the areas of health, economy, and education.

She later joined another NGO which renovated schools and kindergartens. She also participated in creating nine local action groups (LAGs). Her organisation helped LAGs implement economic, social and infrastructure projects to make the life of communities easier.

In March 2022, Aliona joined our team in Moldova, as the regional coordinator for the northern part of the country. Our humanitarian profile drove her decision to join us; for Aliona, this meant she would continue working for people. Almost six months after her decision, she is happy with what she is doing.

“Together with my colleagues, we are trying to reach all the families in the northern districts and the municipality of Balti, who are currently hosting refugees from Ukraine and help them receive financial assistance offered by international organisations. I also try to communicate as often as possible with the representatives of the district social assistance directorates and local town halls and involve them in our work, especially in the area of information sharing”. Says Aliona.

“War is a tragedy for humanity”

She never thought she would end up working in a time of uncertainty and in an area so close to war. Although she has seen a lot of suffering in her 20-plus years, she admits that the war in Ukraine has affected her quite a bit: “War is a tragedy for humanity. We were all on constant alert because we didn’t know what tomorrow would bring”. 

Among Aliona’s responsibilities is registering Moldovan families hosting people from Ukraine. Registration is vital to receive financial support from donors such as the European Union or the World Food Programme. And because they wanted to do more, Aliona and her colleagues voluntarily helped refugees to register on the online platform uahelp.md, so that they too receive the assistance they need. This assistance is of great use because many Ukrainians do not know how to do it—especially the elderly and others under great stress.

“I didn’t see peace and calm in any refugee’s eyes. I saw only frightened looks, people who had fled the war, living every day in fear. I try to talk to them calmly, treat them with understanding and help them as much as possible, and give them additional information, tell them how they could benefit from other opportunities and support. I try to encourage them and tell them everything will be fine. And I believe that in the end, it will be fine.”

It is important to value people working in the humanitarian assistance field

At the end of every working day, Aliona asks herself what she could do better to make tomorrow more efficient. She says she is physically tired, but she gets energy, enthusiasm, and strength from the things she does—by helping others.

“And when you like your work, you don’t get exhausted, and if you do what you enjoy, you are happy”.

She says the same about her colleagues in the People in Need Moldova office in Balti. Each of them has touching stories about the people they have helped thanks to humanitarian aid projects. Each of them dedicates their time and energy to people they don’t know but need support in these difficult times. For example, Irina, Aliona’s colleague, wakes up every day at four in the morning and travels over 60 km to get to work. Their efforts are not always seen, but the joy of being helpful to people keeps them going.

Aliona firmly believes that humanitarian work is not for everyone.

 It’s only for special people. “From my point of view, you can’t work in a humanitarian organisation if you’re not empathetic, if you don’t care what’s going on around you and if someone else’s tragedy doesn’t affect you. It is important to value these people because thanks to them, many of the social, and economic problems of those in difficult life situations are solved. And that’s because they find the time, strength and energy resources to serve their fellow human beings and the communities they are part of. They help people build an easier life. And that makes humanity better.”

Autor: Diana Grădinaru, asistentka komunikace

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