A Missionary

„If it wasn´t for Fraňa, it wouldn´t have been possible.” That much canbe saidwhen talking about our project of self-help construction of family homes in Rankovce, for which we were awarded the gold Civil Society Prize in Brussels. Bc. Františka Ondrašíková is a social field worker in Rankovce.

Every day, she is with the people, she knows and understands their world and has a great deal of trust in human strength. As an honestly faithful Christian, one can say she was born to carry out a helping profession. She enrolled in the Missionary Work program at the university with a dream to work with people addicted to drugs. During her school practice, she visited a children´s home in which only Roma children lived. That is how she became attracted to Roma culture. She realized that one does not need to travel to Africa to do the missionary work; it can be done in a neighboring village just the same. Fraňa has been working with the Roma for 14 years.

“I know it is every young family´s dream to have theirown house. But according to Roma tradition, a bride first comes to live with her mother in law; she respects her and learns from her. As soon as the family has two children, they start thinking about creating their own home,” Fraňa goes on to explain. Yet, many times, they cannot afford it.

“To our clients, the project of self-help construction of housesisthe project of their lives,” says Fraňa as she explains the situation: In Rankovce, there are approximately six hundred Roma, which is about three quarters of all the inhabitants. Many Roma families struggle with generational poverty – the people who are poor today were born into families that were already poor and this has been going on for several generations. For years they had no house and no land. Then suddenly, an opportunityarrives. Yet, it is not free. When the question of who wants to have their own house was asked at a public meeting, many hands were raised. However, not so many were raised when thepeople were explained that they first needed to learn to save money, then they needed to take out a loan that had to be repaid and,what is more, they had to build the house themselves.

IMG_0004When ETP Slovakia came to the village with the initiative Building HopeFrom Shacks to 3E Homes, the Mayor, Stanislav Hada, decided: Let´s start selling building land that is in the ownership of the municipality at reasonable price.

“At first, we were literally fighting with people until we explained them what they would gain by building their own legal house,” recalls Fraňa as she looks back at the Project´s beginning. She is convinced that personal ownership creates in people a sense of responsibility, and it is only after a person has developed a relationship towards their own property that they can start building one towards public affairs too.

Fraňa and her assistant FrantišekTurták were the ones to make the selection of recommended people whom ETP engaged in the project. Since then, Fraňa visited the families daily, she was observing their pace as they were progressing with the construction, and she encouraged the people and helped them with administration.

The inhabitants of Rankovce know their social worker as a member of the local Evangelical Parish and as a founder and head of the Civic Association Pre lepšíživot (“For Better Life”). For ten years, this association has been working towards empowering the village´s Roma community. It operates in the municipalities of Košice-OlšavaMicroregion and it provides the builders engaged in the project of ETP Slovakia with construction supervision carried out by OndrejSámeľ, who works to ensure that all future homeowners finish their construction to their long-lasting satisfaction.