The problems of marginalized Roma communities (MRCs) in Slovakia are usually addressed by using public funds to make financial investments into housing, education, health, etc. With sustainability in mind, ETP takes a different approach: one of sustainability and empowerment. Rather than making financial investments, we concentrate on making social investments, thanks to which people are moving from being passive recipients of social benefits towards becoming motivated individuals making their own efforts to improve their situation.
The years of our presence in MRCs have convinced us that social benefits, financial or material help do not, by themselves, constitute a sustainable solution. Even more important is to educate the inhabitants of MRCs on how to manage their money wisely and develop a financial discipline with which they will be able to gradually achieve financial independence.
In the conditions of MRCs we have long been testing new models, designing social innovations and verifying new approaches. Our most successful social innovation connects the activities of the Housing and Financial Inclusion Programs. Within our comprehensive approach, the clients who decide to make use of our innovative tools first need to complete the Financial Education course to be able to participate in the Savings Program, whose successful completion is the precondition for entering the Microloans Program. The saved funds and an interest-free microloan enable the clients to realize their construction or reconstruction projects. The ETP financial inclusion tools are unique in the fact that the money borrowed by our clients keeps revolving – it is being repaid to further serve new clients.
Our experience shows that even clients living on the so-called benefit in material need are capable of saving and repaying a microloan too. So far, nearly a thousand families were able to save money for a new roof, insulation, a new bathroom or a kitchen. More than five hundred families used the interest-free microloan to build a decent, simple and affordable family house themselves, legally.
We believe that, similar to Rankovce, Ostrovany and the 41 other communities whose inhabitants were able to join the Savings and the Microloans Program, the nationwide application of financial inclusion tools, verified by ETP, can prove that poverty and social exclusion in Slovakia´s Roma settlements only need to be temporary.