Heart to Heart want to play a part in the transformation of the causes of exclusion, deprivation and poverty among Roma people in Romania and Bulgaria. We want to give them support in their home countries so that mothers and fathers don’t have to leave their children and pay everything they own for a trip abroad in a desperate hope of getting a job and an income a journey that often places them on the streets of Northern Europe were they have to beg to get an income. We want to fundamentally change the situation for the women who begs outside the grocery store and the man who looks for returnable bottles in the park.
We want to fill the desperate needs that we have seen when we visit roma villages and ghettos in Bulgaria and Romania and wich we heard about in numerous conversations with EU citizens who beg on streets in Sweden. Our aim is that Heart to Heart together with the roma themselves and other NGOs from Sweden and other European countries as well as organizations from Romania and Bulgaria shall be able to cooperate in order to contribute to the improvement of the living conditions for the Roma minority. We believe that we will need integrated interventions in the following four focus areas to achieve a lasting long-term change:
Roma people have substantially lower levels of education than other citizens in Bulgaria and Romania. Low education or no education at all gives them less opportunities to find a job than other citizens. Heart to Heart make four types of contributions in order to give them a chance to get a proper education:
• We pay for the bus fare for high school students who comes from poor circumstances.
• We support homework assistance for elementary school students.
• We provide second chance education for youngsters who quit school for various reasons.
• We support Literacy programs for adults.
• We support vocational training in hotel and restaurant.
• We support start your own business courses.
• We support a Football School for Roma children and youngsters.
According to some studies Roma people have 15-20 years lower life expectancy than the general population in Romania. The number of cases of TB are the highest in Europe. Hepatitis is common. Roma people have generally poor access to health care than other citizens in Bulgaria and Romania the main reason is that many of them are not insured but also because they often live in very isolated communities and villages.
In the communities we have visited or work in, we have met some young widows / widowers with many children. Their respective often have died from diseases that could have been cured if they had received proper treatment in time. Together with our partner organizations, we have begun to take sick parents with minor children to care. We will also work to primary care is expanded in the communities where we work so that care can be provided in good time. We pay for the wages for the staff at a primary care clinic in a roma ghetto in a Romanian City and the local authorities pay for the other cost. The clinic supports 7,000 people in the area with Primary Care and Social Service.
The lack of proper supply is the main reason for the desperate migration among roma people. It’s important to find out the prerequisites for their supply locally. Partly it’s about what kind of experience, handicraft and traditions that they have and try to see if it’s possible to earn a living locally on it. It’s also important that the individuals clearly show what they want to work with.
Together with our partner organization in Bulgaria we organize start your own business courses and provide micro loans to stimulate new entrepreneurship among the Roma. Some companies have already started, the business are going well and more people have been hired.
We also contributed for the start of a project for the development of the local economy in a Romanian commune last year. A project that will organize the local farmers in the area and give them the tools that they need to get a greater return on the vegetables that they sell at the local market.
4. Actions for structural impact (identity and ownership)
There are people in the Roma minority in Romania who do not have an identity. They live completely outside the society and can never go to other European countries. Many Roma families do not have an official ownership of their house or plot of land. They are threatened with eviction and to get their homes demolished. In cooperation with the local authorities in some places in Romania we have started to do something about this this fundamental problem. In the autum of 2014 we contributed in to give 115 roma families legal ownership for their houses. Due to the positive development of the society due to legal ownership and job opportunities the migration decreased and migrants start to return from the richer parts of the European Union.
Increased capacity in the country
We are expanding our capacity in Romania and has hired three Romanian field officers / field workers who will implement the projects and actions throughout Romania. In addition to these field officers / field workers it is important for us to find good local partners who know the people in need and have a heart for them.