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Building homes—and bridges—among ethnic groups in Slovakia

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Roma family and friends in their renovated apartment.

 

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“I like to have a place that is good to come home to for everyone,”says this Roma woman.

The town of Nalepkovo in southeast Slovakia is about fifty percent Roma and fifty percent Slovak. While Slovakia is becoming increasingly prosperous as a whole, its eastern regions are still stricken by poverty and economic deprivation. Even though the average salary in Slovakia is about €400 per month, our partner families in this rural region do not earn more than an average €200 a month.

Local government in Nalepkovo secured funds to provide 20 apartments in five single-story blocks for Roma families on an attractive site (with the center of the town within an easy reach by bus). The houses will be built with the help of the Roma unemployed, who will maintain their social security benefits and earn an additional income. When the basic structures are finished, Habitat will provide loans to families to raise the quality of their homes from basic shells to simple, decent homes.

Another 30 families—Roma and Slovak alike– have taken loans to renovate their current homes. Almost half of them are already finished, with the rest in progress.

Families replaced decayed flooring with new ones; painted apartments; bought new stoves and sometimes renovated bathrooms. They are proud of what they achieved. “”I have 18 children and now grandchildren. I like to have a place that is good to come home to for everyone,” says a Roma woman who partnered with Habitat to renovate her home.

A great strength of the project is that when these families pay their monthly loan installments, a new family can start working on their own house. The aim of the project is to serve 70 families over a two-year period.

Building community
The key to the project’s success is that it involves a much wider community program based in the village Community Center and managed by Habitat’s partner ETP Slovakia. Here families come to get advice on employment, legal assistance, use internet or just get together. There are after-school activities for children, mothers and toddlers groups, the job club and various self-help groups.

Habitat’s partners report that the project has resulted not only in increased community involvement but better mutual relations between Roma and non-Roma.

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 Slovakia in a number of ways. Here are some examples:

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

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