In the revised Atlas of Roma Communities of 2013, the experts of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) estimated that out of the total number of 402 000 Roma living in Slovakia, 53 % live in socially excluded communities. Several thousand families (estimates range from 5000 to 15000) live in shacks that are usually built illegally from scrap materials, situated in settlements outside or on the outskirts of towns and villages. Their inhabitants have limited access to drinking water and electricity, living in conditions which endanger their lives and health. The most urgent problems faced by the people trapped in the cycle of generational poverty are, besides terrible living conditions, low education levels, long-term unemployment, usury resulting from both poverty and inability to handle limited finances, poor health and addictions.
To solve the problems of the Roma settlements requires work directly in the communities to gain a deep understanding on their issues and adjust the programs to the specific needs of each locality.
Since 2001 ETP has been working through its network of Community Centres established in partnership with local government, situated directly in the marginalized Roma communities. In the Community Centres we have, so far, provided:
- Comprehensive Services (social, legal, health, employment, financial and housing counseling)
- Pre-school Preparation applying alternative education methods (Feuerstein Instrumental Enrichment, Grunnlaget, Montessori)
- Extracurricular Activities (Photography Workshops, Creative and Crafts Workshops, Dance, Music, Drama and Sports Clubs, etc.)
- A Mentoring Program
- Financial Education Courses for children and adults
- A Savings Program
- A Microloans Program
- A Housing Program aimed at self-help construction of low-cost family homes or at reconstruction and legalization of existing homes
- Employment Integration Programs (“Improve Your skills” course, employment counseling)
- Health Awareness Programs (“Young Mother”, “Planned Parenthood and Anti-drug Education”)
- New Horizons motivational course focusing on self-awareness and personality development
- Art Activities aimed at developing clients´ talents and giving them opportunities to perform
- Cultural Projects (Slumdog Theatre, Art4Rom, Music4Rom)
Our successful practices verified by years of our community work with hundreds of people in dozens of segregated communities in Slovakia, including the pre-school preparation directly within the communities, financial education, microloans and self-help construction of low-cost family homes, are all projects that are gaining support among legislators and other public authorities, gradually becoming an integral element in laws, bills, regulations and standards related to social inclusion.
ETP has always considered its field work a priority, at the same time realizing the need to share our expertise with others to scale our innovative community-based solutions. Therefore, advocacy is a significant part of our work aimed at both disseminating our best practices and changing the public perception. To diminish the stereotypes about the people living in Roma ghettos, we create space for joint actions with the majority. Therefore, our slogan “Creating Opportunities, Bridging Differences” perfectly sums up all our efforts.