Stories of Change

Top: Daniela in front of the LudoBus, Middle: the Ludobus, Bottom: Daniela and her colleague show us the activities inside of the bus

Bringing Fun and Big Hugs

Just like many kids around the world anticipate the arrival of an ice cream truck, in Moldova, many children look forward to the arrival of the LudoBus! The LudoBus, which means “fun bus” or “play bus” in English, was created by our partner Diaconia to bring education and fun to Moldovan children in rural areas. When thousands of Ukrainians fled to neighboring Moldova at the start of the war, the program shifted to include refugee children living in local refugee accommodation centers.

We recently met Daniela, who is the LudoBus program coordinator. Like the bus, Daniela embodies a friendly, joyful and bright spirit and a sunshine personality. She told us that when the refugee crisis began, they were committed to serving the new families. She said, “Our main goal was to reach as many refugee centers as possible and in the first two months we managed to reach about 15-17 refugee centers.”

The first few months were difficult for the LudoBus team. Many of the volunteers did not speak Ukrainian or Russian, so language barriers created new challenges when trying to connect with children. Regardless, the team used their creativity and, “communicated through facial expressions or with their hands,” Daniela explained. Soon the kids became comfortable and were able to open up to the volunteers and open up about what they were feeling. “They felt free,” said Daniela.

The LudoBus was making dozens of children feel happy again, but its magic didn’t end there. The children’s parents and grandparents also felt the happiness of the program as they saw their children smile and have fun. Daniela shared, “I remember all the hugs we received from their grannies. That was the most amazing ‘pay’ we could receive.” Daniela gleefully recounted an instance in which they were playing with the kids and one of the children’s grandmothers took over the activity because she was so excited to see her grandchildren be happy and have fun. Daniela joked that the grandmother was doing such a good job that she asked herself, “wait, what am I doing here?”

Daniela recalled that CWS supported the program through school supplies. She shared, “at the beginning, we saw that there was a need for school supplies for the older kids that were doing online lessons but we didn’t have the ability to obtain the school supplies.” Through the support of CWS, the program received a major donation of supplies that were distributed to about 500 children. “It was a very big help from Church World Service,” said Daniela.

Daniela exudes gratitude for the support the program received and said she’d like to give our supporters and donors, “a big, big hug and a big, big thank you.” She added, “I know you weren’t there with us but I hope that you can feel through the words that I’ve said that you really helped. Every little small help really counted. I know you cannot enter my mind and see all the smiles that I’ve seen and all the tears that I’ve felt, but I want to give you a great big hug and thank you.”

We are thankful for people like Daniela and our supporters who have helped spread joy and care to hundreds of Ukrainian children. Your love and support is truly like a “big, big hug.”

To join Daniela in showing compassion and continue supporting Ukrainians, click here.