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 crates 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.
From Challenging Upbringing to Charitable Co-Founder: The Story of Olea Christensen
Olea Christinsen, co-founder of Ukraine Moldova Aid, Inc, is the middle child of seven siblings who grew up in a one-bedroom apartment in Moldova with eight other people and an abusive grandmother. Olea's challenging upbringing taught her how to be strong and stand up for herself. She did not have the luxury of family dinners, hugs, or words of encouragement, but had to focus on survival. At the age of nine, Olea was placed in an orphanage and felt lonely and different. However, she met Elena Barlow and they became like a soul sisters, sharing the same dreams and passion. Olea received a student visa at the age of 18 to study in the United States, where she learned English and graduated with scholarships and honors from a business college in Utah. During her college years, Olea worked on the graveyard shift at her first IT job while raising a newborn baby. Olea's greatest achievement is her family, which includes a sweet and beautiful daughter, three smart stepchildren, and a supportive husband who is also her best friend. Despite coming from a big family where love and happiness were scarce, Olea now experiences both in abundance. Olea has been working in the IT industry for the past eight years, with her current job at Netflix, where she enjoys the entertainment work environment. Olea's passion is to help families feel ordinary and content, particularly children who have dreams of feeling special and loved. Together with Elena, she co-founded Ukraine Moldova Aid, Inc charity organization to raise funds for various causes and projects and visit multiple orphanages, hospitals, nursing homes, and animal shelters in Moldova to offer their assistance. Moldova is known as the poorest country in Europe, and Olea and Elena have dedicated hundreds of hours to organizing new projects and delivering goods to families in need. They encourage everyone to open their hearts and donate to a child, family, or animal that has a dream, and to become part of making that dream a reality.