A British charity worker has just returned from setting up a scheme to help unemployed Jews in poverty-torn Moldova.
World Jewish Relief programmes manager Cassie Williams said the Golders Green-based charity has pledged £50,000 over the next year to help single Jewish women improve both their job prospects and confidence.
Ms Williams explained that in the many years WJR had been working in the former Soviet Union, “it became clear that while the work we were doing was vital and helping people out of the cycle of poverty, it was creating a kind of dependence. We wanted to make sure the next generation don’t become another group of people needing support.
“Moldova was a good place to start and I hope it’s just the beginning. People there are incredibly poor. The majority are vulnerable and living in dire conditions.
“Women are often left alone with children and their main problems are social isolation and a lack of confidence.” Most of the estimated 23,000 Jews in Moldova rely on external support.
WJR’s programme differs from others by offering a more holistic approach, including both educational and psychological backing.
Already, four of the 60 women in the first group have found employment.
“To see the difference in these women is amazing,” added Ms Williams, who visits Moldova four times a year. “They are becoming more confident. A little input from us has an enormous impact on their lives.”
Among the women on the course is Bella, who lives with her four-year-old daughter Inna in a country area.
Bella, 35, married at 19, divorced at 21 and then fell pregnant by a man who is now in jail. Her only income was from cleaning a private home every morning.
“Of all the women, Bella was the most keen to have us visit,” Ms Williams said.
“She couldn’t sit still, running around nervously offering us coffee, sweets and fruit. She couldn’t believe we’d be interested in visiting her.”
Bella hopes involvement in the programme will lead to her finding work as an office manager.