ETP Receives the Civil Society Prize

Today in Brussels, ETP Slovakia receives the 2014 Civil Society Prize awarded by the European Economic and Social Committee.

The selection board was impressed by the innovative and creative approach towards solving the housing issue of low-income young families living in marginalized Roma communities in Slovakia. Thanks to the project Building Hope, 6 young families from Rankovce (Košice-okolie District) have changed their fate when they used their savings and refundable microloans provided by ETP to build their own homes. They did so self-sufficiently and legally on the premises purchased by the local municipality.

The shacks they used to live in are no longer their homes; they exchanged them for the low-budget houses with 3E characteristics – ecological and energetically efficient. Inspired by their achievement, other inhabitants from the settlement have expressed their interest in building their own houses too.

Non-profit organization ETP Slovakia – Centre for Sustainable Development has already been awarded several international and domestic awards and nominations.

For the Grand Finale of the Civil Society Prize, which ETP Slovakia is sharing with two other organizations, the director of ETP Slovakia, Slávka Mačáková is accompanied by two clients, Mr. Ondrej Sameľ – project´s construction supervisor and Milan Gašpar, one of the active builders from Rankovce.

In these moments, Slávka Mačáková is giving the acceptance speech in Brussels, which you can read below.

It is a real pleasure to be here with you and to have the opportunity to share some impressions.

I would like to thank the experts from the European Economic and Social Committee, who have chosen self-help construction in marginalized Roma communities to be among the winners of the prestigious Roma Integration Prize.

The implementation of our social innovation project, called Building Hope, has been possible thanks to mainly our private donors and sponsors.

I must also thank Ondrej Samel, and other our staff and local partners, who have tirelessly led our clients „hand in hand“ through the construction process, so that they could move into their new low-cost homes last Christmas.

I very much hope and that similar projects which substantially improve the quality of life for the poorest of the poor in Europe will find support in the newly planned EC operational programs. So far, unfortunately, it does not seem that this will be the case.

We hope that Building Hope will inspire European policymakers and that within the next seven years, tens of thousands of families, who are homeless or live in dangerous shacks, will be supported by European operational programs and that, in this way, they will all be able to finance and build their own safe homes.

One such family is that of Milan Gaspar, who is here with us. Milan’s is just one of thousands of families who wish to contribute to a prosperous and fair Europe.

Meanwhile, they live in hope for substantial changes to be made in new operational programs that will enable young motivated families to apply for social, material and financial help to build legal homes with running water and electricity.

Let me paraphrase the American psychologist Philip Zimbardo: We are socially situated. We are where we live, eat, work, and make love.

It is our responsibility to ensure that, in the words of the EESC Mission Statement, “European policies and legislation tie in better with economic, social and civic circumstances on the ground”. People, who live and work on the ground, Milan, other poor families, and social field workers expect the European Commission to create policies that clearly and convincingly develop the potential of poor Roma and enable them to integrate into and enrich our societies.

The decision of the EESC jury reinforces our conviction, based on our 15-years of field experience in marginalized Roma communities, that self-help construction of simple, decent and affordable housing is the first inescapable and necessary step towards achieving the goal of integration.

Thank you.