ETP Slovakia is a non-profit organization that has devoted over 15 years to providing comprehensive social services to vulnerable groups and individuals who are facing social exclusion due to their ethnicity, race, nationality or social status.
The organization was established in 1992 by the U.S. Agency for International Development as a direct continuer of Environmental Training Project for Central and Eastern Europe. Since 1995, ETP has been an independent entity which has, in recent years, focused on helping two major groups of clients: people living in the environment of extreme poverty and social exclusion of marginalized Roma communities (MRCs) in Slovakia and refugees under the protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), who have fled their homes due to an armed conflict to seek refuge in another country.
To address the needs of the inhabitants of the Roma settlements, we operate in three localities in Eastern Slovakia: Rankovce, Stará Ľubovňa and Veľká Ida, where we run Community Centres in partnership with local stakeholders and authorities. Our work with the refugees has been realized in the Evacuation Transit Centre (ETC) in Humenné, where refugees from Afghanistan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Iran, Iraq and Palestine have already found temporary refuge.
Over the recent years, we have built a truly international and intercultural team of dedicated and reliable employees working in our Community Centres, the ETC Humenné and our office in Košice.
ETP operates at local, regional, national and European levels. We strive to network with local organizations (Municipalities, Schools, Churches and NGOs) as well as individuals. We have constantly been testing new models, implementing and field testing innovative tools of social work. We are, therefore, a “social laboratory,” verifying new work approaches focusing on the social inclusion of those suffering long-term exclusion.
We promote, as the alternatives to social benefits, the so-called social investments. Social benefits are often provided to people in material need living in MRCs for their whole lives. Their dependence on state support lasts “from the cradle to the grave.” By contrast, investing in our clients “from the cradle to career” means empowering them from their early childhood throughout their university studies up until the moment they are able to acquire permanent jobs and thus gain independence. Thanks to such social investments, people are moving from being passive recipients of social benefits towards becoming motivated individuals actively seeking opportunities to use their own efforts to improve the situation they have been born into, but have not caused.
We also strive to convince professionals, as well as the general public, that making even a small social investment can have a huge empowering effect that makes much greater difference in the long run.
We adhere to the principles of sustainability and believe in the possibility of positive change. We are convinced the approach of small and gradual steps leads to significant positive and irreversible changes in the communities. Only conceptual, systematic, integrated and long-term action supported by an incredible group of donors has the potential to disrupt the cycle of generational poverty that has afflicted people living in Roma ghettos for far too long.
ETP has been an active player in influencing national policies, participating in the creation of strategies and policies on regional, state and EU levels. The Slovak Roma Integration Strategy to 2020 is based on interventions and projects successfully piloted and tested by ETP, such as field social work, community centers, micro-credits and financial literacy programs.
In 2009, we received the Gypsy Spirit Award for our “comprehensive, highly professional and authentic work and services for disadvantaged and marginalized groups, combating poverty and social exclusion in Slovakia with special consideration to Roma living in segregated settlements as well as for application of social mobility concept that encourages mutual assistance and support, especially for creating and assistance in shaping of temporary and permanent jobs.” In 2011, we received The ERSTE Foundation Prize for Social Integration. In 2014, ETP Slovakia was awarded the golden Civil Society Prize for Integration of the Roma by the European Economic and Social Committee. for interconnecting financial education, saving and an interest-free microloan to facilitate legal self-help construction of family homes by the inhabitants of the settlements, who have so far lived in unsuitable illegal dwellings.
The success of our clients motivates us to continue creating innovative community-based solutions to the problem that has frustrated Slovakia and Europe for decades. ETP’s effective solutions of targeted assistance prove that poverty and social exclusion in Slovakia´s settlements only need to be temporary.