Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI) is the overseas branch of BCFS, formerly Baptist Child & Family Services, a global system of non-profit organizations. As a Christian health and human services organization, CERI brings hope to children living in extreme poverty around the globe, including some of the poorest regions in Eastern Europe.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moldova struggled to transition to a market economy. As a result of political instability and economic decline, Moldova became the poorest country in Europe. Living conditions deteriorated rapidly, especially in rural areas, and poverty was widespread. Moldova is also the primary source country for victims of human trafficking in Eastern Europe, where impoverished youth are especially vulnerable to the lures of traffickers.
Many of the youth and young adults CERI serves in Moldova face a constant struggle to meet their basic needs – their living environment is often unstable, food is sparse and hand-me-down, ill-fitting clothing and shoes do little to protect them from the cold, harsh winters.
In 2011, responding to the plight of homelessness facing young adults in Moldova, CERI opened two transitional apartments, one for males and another for females ages 16 to 23 years old. In these apartments, CERI provides free, safe and stable housing to young men and women who are at a dire crossroad in their life.
While living in the apartments, the young adults participate in CERI’s Transitional Care program which provides case management, education and career services, counseling, life skills trainings, medical treatment referrals, volunteer opportunities and more. The CERI apartments house 10 to 12 young adults at any given time who are working toward earning a college degree or completing a vocational training program so they can find a job and transition out to live on their own.
As part of this unique program, a Christian mentor lives in the apartment building with the young adults and serves as the “parental figure” who encourages, supports and guides them. The mentor helps them build their life skills by teaching them how to prepare healthy and affordable meals, how to budget and save money, how to keep their apartments clean and organized and proper personal hygiene practices, among many other things. The mentor also organizes a weekly Bible study group which just recently completed the book How To Love God and Our Neighbor. Through this book, they learned practical ways to show love and cultivate healthy relationships by looking to God as the supreme example.
"The living conditions [in the CERI apartments] are very good. I like the meetings with the girls,” says Nadejda, who currently lives there. “Usually we cook together. We have an excellent mentor. She is a good example for us and every day we learn something new from her.”
Through the support of faithful donors, CERI is able to provide essential services to vulnerable youth who could have easily fallen victim to unconscionable suffering and abuse, but thankfully are now in a loving environment, breaking a cycle of poverty, illiteracy and hopelessness.
To support the life-changing work of Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI), visit CERIkids.org. For more information about CERI’s parent organization, BCFS, visit DiscoverBCFS.net.
Ashley Krimmel is a writer for BCFS.