Canadian Becky Barnaciuc shares what life is like living and working in another country, and explains how children at risk of exploitation are being given fresh hope and new opportunities
What does your work in Moldova involve?
During the six years I’ve lived in Moldova, I’ve been involved in various ministries, including leading the Relief Development (helping the most vulnerable), financial development, and also starting a prevention of human trafficking and exploitation ministry. This involves working intensively and purposefully with the children in our centers who are identified as the most ‘at-risk’. It involves training conferences and camps where children and teens receive anti-trafficking education plus we try to fill in the gaps that exist in their moral and social education.
Why and how did you start working with OM (the organization that Freedom Challenge is part of)?
I had been to Moldova on short-term trips to do summer camps and could see just how vulnerable the children here are - growing up with alcoholic parents in abuse/neglect, in poverty, and/or living without their parents who, due to 80 per cent unemployment in the villages, have left the country to find work abroad.
I began to feel a call to do something more than just a two-week summer camp and started to explore my options. I came back in 2011 with a clear vision to ‘stop people trafficking in Moldova’ and got involved in the Relief department which, amongst other things, resources local churches to reach out to the vulnerable children in their communities.
What have you found interesting or challenging about living in Moldova?
Staying here for one or two years can be an adventure but to move here permanently is very challenging. The hardest part is that a part of you wants to belong and be totally accepted but you're always seen as different... the other part of you wants desperately to remain different.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
We've recently started working more intensively with the older girls (and boys) who are highly vulnerable to being exploited, manipulated, and abused. I love seeing the change in their lives.
What’s the hardest part of your work here?
The lack of government welfare and the high level of corruption. It means you can't rely on the system to take children out of dangerous situations or to see justice for those who are exploited.
How are people’s lives being changed through this project?
Yana* watched her father stab her mother and was filled with hatred towards men. Now she's become a Christian and has begun to trust the pastor and other Christian men - she says she wants to marry a Christian man one day. She also wants to forgive her father, even though it's a process.
Sveta* was raised by an alcoholic mother and was raped by her father. She opened up to one of our staff and has also become a Christian. She is praying about her future and trusting God that He will open doors for her to continue studying after grade 9.
The girls in one of the villages used to sell themselves – from the age of 11 – for a bottle of vodka or a pack of cigarettes. Now they know that God has a plan for their lives. They come to the church to do their homework every day and want to do well at school.
What are your hopes for the future?
That these children will grow in their faith and pursue the plans God has for their lives.
*Names have been changed to protect identities