Date: 25-09-2023

Step by Step Moldova provides quality non-formal ECEC services for Ukrainian children

Step by Step Moldova provides quality non-formal ECEC services for Ukrainian children

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Moldova has welcomed around 100,000 refugees—many of whom are women and children. Despite receiving automatic rights to housing, healthcare, education, and work since January 2023, most refugees hope to return home to Ukraine.

In Chisinau, Moldova, Step by Step Moldova (SBSM) began responding to the crisis in 2022 through their project, “Creating Day Camps in Chisinau”, which works to extend access for Ukrainian refugee children and families to non-formal education programs, as well as training teachers to respond to the crisis.

Ukrainian children and families feel well received due to the nurturing and inclusive environment that SBSM created for them. Children and families were engaged in recreational activities like puppet shows and thematic field trips to the cheese factory and the chocolate factory. Parents also benefited from art therapy sessions that provided space to relieve the stress of having to flee their homes. Moreover, SBSM employed Ukrainian teachers who understood the Ukrainian curriculum, which helps to provide a smooth transition for children in the education system in addition to supporting employment of Ukrainian refugees.

Changing Needs

“The needs of Ukrainians arriving in Moldova now are different than those who arrived last year. Due to an established Ukrainian refugee community in Moldova, it is easier for newcomers to access services and find support.”

- Cornelia Cincilei, Director Step by Step Moldova and ISSA Board Member


The needs of Ukrainian children who have been in Moldova since 2022 have also gradually changed. In addition to opportunities for recreation, school children need access to education. To address the changing needs of Ukrainian children, SBSM provides tailored activities for children of different ages. For example, preschool children have “Fun with English” once a week in addition to their regular activities. Primary school children attend literacy, math, and science classes, and all children receive lessons in robotics and graphic design.

As their stay in Moldova is prolonged, parents are faced with several dilemmas when considering whether to enroll their children in local schools. Parents must prepare necessary enrollment documents, which can require returning to Ukraine. Moreover, as most families plan to return to Ukraine once it is safe, they often prefer for their children to be taught the Ukrainian curriculum. Nevertheless, SBSM continues to provide quality, flexible, and non-formal services for children and their families to benefit from while they take refuge in Moldova.

Psychological first aid training to support Ukrainian children and families

In preparing teachers to work with children who fled Ukraine, SBSM received the Foundational training on psychological first aid (PFA) and trauma-informed practices for young children and their caregivers created by ISSA, War Child Holland, and ISSA Member Amna. The training aims to fill a critical knowledge and skills gap in providing psychological first aid among early childhood practitioners to meet the needs of young refugee children and their caregivers. In addition to this critical training, SBSM also provides practice-oriented training for teachers that embeds psychosocial support. After the training, teachers report feeling better equipped to work with refugee children who have been through traumatic experiences.

For SBSM, implementing a complex psychosocial support program has not been free of challenges. Scarcity of financial resources and rigid funding opportunities limited their efforts to provide services for Ukrainian children and families. Combined with the fact that providing quality service is both expensive and labor-intensive, this work requires a degree of flexibility to maintain a sustainable response to the crisis.


Unfortunately, the situation due to the war in Ukraine continues to be uncertain. New and fierce attacks on the southern regions of Ukraine, that are neighboring Moldova, force some new Ukrainians to seek refuge in our country while, at the same time, some other refugees risk moving back home. Given the fluidity of the situation, SBSM plans to continue expanding its psycho-social support to the refugee families and organize developmental activities for all age-groups of Ukrainian children, including organizing catch-up classes for school children.