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Keeping children safe and healthy

Habitat for Humanity and the Velux Foundation have launched a partnership to improve social protection and welfare of children and youth in Bulgaria. This five-year initiative offers selected families the opportunity to make gradual home improvements that will decrease risks to health and the development of the children .  Because of the program, every year nearly 1,500 children and young people can stay with their families rather than be transferred to state-run social institutions due to poor home conditions.

In Bulgaria, many children and adolescents live in inadequate and unhealthy homes. Research from ARK Bulgaria shows that substandard living conditions jeopardize children’s health and hamper their socialization and future development. Inadequate housing is one of the main reasons children are taken away from their families and placed in social institutions. These families live in houses without running water, toilets or bathrooms, with poor heating or even insecure tenure. Up to now, there have been no social programs in Bulgaria that support such families to improve their housing.

This project, launched by Habitat for Humanity with the support from the Velux Foundation, will help families improve their homes to ensure they are safe and healthy for children.

Loans for home improvements

Habitat for Humanity will offer families small non-profit loans and construction assistance for home improvements. Over five years, to the program plans to assist up to 7,700 children. At the moment, these families are caught in a vicious circle of poverty and have no access to standard finance sources. In many cases, they are forced to borrow from illegal lenders, who charge extremely high interest. As a result, families lose not only their future prospects but also their belongings, including homes.

To ensure that the problems are tackled comprehensively, the project includes cooperation with local community organizations that provide specialized services and trainings. Additional support provided by these community organizations is based on the needs of each community. Generally, it includes financial education, help with budgeting, planning and saving money; social work; legal advice to protect tenure; health education, and emergency medical help; school mediation; local cultural community centers or basic life skills and professional trainings, support in writing CVs, job search and filling applications and forms.

The Velux Foundation is a charitable arm of Velux, a Danish company that produces roof windows and skylights. It aims to improve living environments with products that increase daylight and fresh air through the roof of homes.