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Bulgaria: Keeping families together

Bulgaria is one of the European Union countries with the highest number of children in institutions. During times of hard economic transition from centrally planned system to free market, many parents were leaving their disabled children in state-run orphanages, unable to cope with additional strain of raising them.

Bulgaria is one of the leaders in the European Union for the number of abandoned children.

At the same time, very often Roma groups, traditionally marginalized by societies, are also choosing to leave their children on the streets. They are unwilling or unable to house additional members of the family in the crammed shacks shared with close and extended relatives. In other instances, local authorities assign children to institutions when they see that parents cannot provide appropriate living conditions.

Habitat believes that improving substandard home conditions of the underprivileged families is one of the ways to resolve the problem. In Bulgaria, Habitat offers needy Roma families in the region of Stara Zagora loans to improve home environment, in the belief that better homes will help parents keep children at home and raise them in proper conditions.

So far, Habitat Bulgaria has supported more than 30 Roma families by offering small loans to repair roofs, change flooring, replace window frames, install running water in homes or strengthen house foundations. As a result, many children are now living in cleaner and warmer houses with more space and privacy.

Zhana’s family used Habitat loan to finish their half-build new home in the village Hristeni.

Zhana from the village of Hristeni took out a Habitat loan of 300 leva – equivalent of 200 US dollars. Her family used this money to plaster walls of their new house which accommodates seven people. Previously they all lived in the house of Zhana’s parents-in-law. Recently her eldest son got married and the young family had a baby. They managed to make the house clean and safe for the arrival of the newborn.

What makes this program unique is that it seeks to empower the Roma minority who has faced discrimination and shunning from local communities. Habitat treats them as responsible members of society who can be partners in a project. Traditionally, support to the Roma has been limited to grants, based on the presumption that this group is not able or willing to pay back loans. However, the Roma community from Stara Zagora proves the opposite.

What is next?
Habitat wants people not only to read about poverty housing but do something to fight it. You can support Habitat’s work in Bulgaria in a number of ways. Here are some examples:

• Visit our donations page to support projects in Bulgaria.
• Go to country profile pages to learn about other programs in this country.

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