• IOM Moldova - Media and Communications, and Livelihood Desks (photos IOM/Ana Gnip)

The dream of becoming a chef of a 16-year-old Ukrainian who fled the war, and the determination of a Moldovan female manager to overcome gender prejudices with her Kiosk, come together thanks to the initiative of the IOM Moldova Team Livelihood.

Chisinau - Daniil is a 16-year-old boy from Odesa.

He came to Moldova with his mother and sister in early March 2022 because of the war. His grandparents, too old to flee, had to stay in Ukraine, where he studied ‘cooking’ at the Odesa Vocational Lyceum of Construction and Architecture.

Daniil dreams of becoming a chef.

Like all Ukrainian refugees who left the bombs behind, he and his family face new challenges in finding a safe place to live and a job to cover basic needs. Despite being underage, Daniil had to take on occasional jobs in Chisinau to ensure further support to his mother, who found work as an assistant cook after spending a lifetime as a manager in Ukraine. In September 2022, school courses resumed in Ukraine, and Daniil decided not to give up on his studies. He still believes that the diploma in ‘cooking’ is the right way to pursue his dream to one day work as a chef.

His bed is his classroom. A cell phone and a pair of headphones to attend the online lessons are his school equipment. 

The weeks pass quickly, and the harsh winter arrives. In Moldova the cost of basic living increases, and the price of gas is skyrocketing. Daniil needs to find part time work.

“I couldn't live here without working, I needed a part time job to continue my studies from Chisinau. And I found out about SooCookie”.

Daniil with his new colleagues - Photo IOM/Ana Gnip

SooCookie is a Moldovan company that manages a small kiosk café and pastry shop in the center of Chisinau which was awarded by IOM Livelihood Team’s program funded by the U.S. to support local micro-enterprises which hire refugees from Ukraine.  
The Kiosk was supported by supplying the necessary equipment to make cookies and cakes, including a sink, a mixer and a new dishwasher for the kitchen, and the renovation of the spaces where employees work.

Elena Tomuz, Moldovan, 39 years old, is the owner’s company.

“My story is not ordinary”. For five years, she started baking cakes from home and selling them to friends and acquaintances. Orders began to increase and the growing demand could no longer meet the domestic dimension of her business. There was a need for some more space, more people, to set up a micro business, and to hire staff. And that's how a hobby turned into a small business with the opening of her bakery. Then, she received the opportunity of IOM financial support to give a boost to her micro-enterprise business, proudly managed by a woman.

“As a woman I felt supported. I really hope that I can demonstrate to everyone the value of women managers who have made their way through their own efforts"

Elena and Daniil's paths crossed with the IOM initiative.

Elena asked IOM for support to find a barista for her kiosk. The IOM Livelihood Team looked for a suitable candidate through the network of beneficiaries and, after a shortlist selection, Daniil was identified and then interviewed. He had no previous experience as a barista, but he met all the other requirements. Daniil was hired the next day and started working after attending some barista courses. 

“I learned tips and tricks for making good coffee, and my coffees are now delicious”.

This is also what SooCookie customers think, who not only appreciate Daniil's coffee, but his joviality, his joie de vivre and his story which is often shared on Instagram by customets’ reels.

Daniil while serving his coffee - Photo IOM/Ana Gnip

After months of worries and suffering, all this attention can only please Daniil. He now feels part of Moldovan society, to which he contributes with his work and his smiles, and proudly with his coffee. Daniil is enjoying his first professionally formative experience, his first real job, and his first stable salary.

"I need to buy a computer to make my school presentations and to attend online lessons no longer with a mobile phone and headphones".

The first investment is on his studies, and his vitality is always enclosed in his dream: to be a chef, and to open his own bistro, at home, in Ukraine, with his grandparents, the first customers.

SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities