About half of all children in Romania face the risk of poverty and social exclusion. They live in deplorable housing conditions, are left behind by parents who migrate, drop out of school, experience violence or health problems. Terre des hommes helps vulnerable groups in Romania, such as Roma, to tackle this situation by creating small enterprises in regions where little employment opportunities are available.
Romania has the highest rate of child poverty in the European Union. For 25 years Tdh has been working in this country to improve the lives of underprivileged children and their families. "The truth is that we cannot solve, in the long term, the social problems in a community without also working on its economic development," explains Radu Racareanu, Tdh Project Manager on Economic Empowerment in Romania.
In the "zefiR – Together for Empowerment" project, Tdh supports the development of 12 communities, where a large Roma population lives. Since 2013, more than 5200 children have benefitted from improvements in the education, health and housing sectors. The most recent aspect of this project is an economic development component. This year, Tdh supports 28 families to either found a new small business or to develop the ones they already have. With its partners PACT Foundation and NESsT Foundation Romania, Tdh granted over 160,000 CHF in financial support and trained the beneficiaries in entrepreneurial skills.
A stable for Simona
One of the small supported businesses is the that of Simona Caldararu, mother of three children, who bought a cow in 2012 in order to sell milk to her neighbours. "The cow had calves and our small business grew, but we didn’t earn enough to get a stable for them. The support of Tdh helped us to build a proper clean stable and now I am looking to hire someone to help me with the cows. It’s a lot of hard work: the cows don’t have holidays. But what I do, I do for my children. With more money I can buy them the clothes, the shoes and the books they need for school, and I make sure they have good food. I also chose to work at home in order to be able to take care of them," tells us Simona.
An investment for the future
The small family businesses are both a challenge and a chance for better living conditions, but they are also a valuable long-term investment. "I am proud to give an example to my daughter, to show her the value of work and how important it is to be able to earn your own living and to manage your finances. I hope that when she grows up, she will go to university in the city, but even if she stays here and works in agriculture, she will have something good to start from and to develop further," says Costica Safta, a Roma father of a pre-school girl (in the picture above), who built his first greenhouse within the zefiR project.
Tdh continues to support the entrepreneurs with training and mentoring, with a focus on how to better sell their products, to improve their productivity, to adapt their production to the needs of the market, and on identifying new sources of capital to further develop their business. "The project changes the attitudes of and within Roma communities. On one hand, it strengthens the self-esteem of the families as they develop economic activities, on the other hand – it combats the prejudices of the majority," says Radu.
This project in Romania creates models of economic development by means of training, consultancy, facilitation, mentoring and grants. We set an example of how businesses can grow and contribute to families’ wellbeing in small and vulnerable communities.