Ukraine Moldova Aid, Inc was founded in 2009 by Elena Barlow. Elena's life story is truly one of triumph over tragedy.
From impoverished beginnings growing up in an orphanage in the Republic of Moldova — forced to live under deplorable conditions — to being fortunate enough to be adopted at age 16 by an American family in Arizona, Elena has worked hard to achieve the American dream. She learned English and attended college, earning both an undergraduate degree in Finance and a Masters in Real Estate Development. She paid off her student loans right after graduation using the real estate skills she learned to buy and flip a home, worked as a senior analyst at Goldman Sacks for three and half years and worked as a director of asset management at a real estate company that develops assisted living communities. In 2021, Elena founded a real estate brokerage, Baya Weaver Realty, and currently works on residential and commercial deals as a licensed principal broker in Utah.
Grateful for her American family and the opportunities seized since coming here, Elena could never forget the years spent as an orphaned child in Moldova. Still known as Europe’s poorest and least visited country, Moldova has been in severe decline.
After Elena’s mother died, she learned first-hand what it feels like to live without life’s most basic necessities.
From age eight to sixteen, she slept in a room with 19 other girls. There was little food; she was always hungry. With no running hot water, she showered in a bucket and washed what few clothes she ever had by hand. She had one pair of shoes, and very few personal possessions.
Elena considers herself one of the lucky ones. She was the last child adopted from that orphanage; adoptions shut down soon after she left. Moldova is now closing orphanages to transition into family and community-based care.
Vowing that no child should have to endure the same hardships she experienced, Elena has been passionately committed to helping needy people in Moldova since her first year of college. At age 18, she traveled to an orphanage there carrying suitcases filled with games and clothing.
Her friends and family pitched in soon after, collecting boxes and boxes of clothing, school supplies, games, and more. Her college apartment soon filled with generous donations, and Elena worked for six months — while still a full-time student to ship all the boxes to the orphanage. With donations ever-increasing, she realized she needed more space and a better, less expensive way to get everything to Moldova. She rented a warehouse, looked into the cost of getting a shipping container, and officially started her charity, Ukraine Moldova Aid, Inc.
For the past fourteen years, as donations have continued to pour in from individuals, groups, charities, and companies, Elena has been able to fill a 40-foot container every year. She was not only helping her chosen orphanages, but a nursing home, institutions for disabled individuals, and an animal rescue group. Located about four hours away from Chișinău, the capital of Moldova, Elena found a nursing home in desperate need of medical supplies. They had one wheelchair for thirty people. Elena was able to get a company in North Carolina to donate a substantial number of new wheelchairs, hospital beds and mattresses, and other medical supplies.
Due to shipment chain disruptions in Eastern Europe, cost increase of shipping, gas and containers, shipment projects were temporarily put on hold. Currently, the main focus of the organization is to raise money and to provide immediate humanitarian aid for Ukrainian refugees in Moldova.
The animal shelters she is helping in Moldova currently feeds and cares for hundreds of stray animals. Elena adopted three of them when she first visited the facilities. It took six months for the paperwork to be processed, and the dogs spent 33 hours in crated traveling to America, but they are happily living with her now.
Elena continually works at building relationships with various charities, organizations, groups, and companies to get needed supplies.
It has been an incredibly fulfilling and emotional journey—one she hopes more individuals, companies, and groups will join and take the next steps with her.