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Improving the lives of 20.000 people belonging to Roma and other vulnerable groups in Romania


zefiR is a one of a kind project in Romania, proving that it is possible to break the cycle of poverty and exclusion. Through its new approach, the six-year project created a sustainable and replicable model for improving the livelihood of vulnerable communities. Twelve communities have directly benefited from this integrated approach to education, health, housing, economic empowerment, and community development.

The living standards of the Roma communities in Romania are well below those of the majority population. To reduce these discrepancies that harshly affect children, Terre des hommes (Tdh) and its seven partners have developed and applied a new model to support communities, by increasing the access to education, healthcare and employment opportunities. The positive change was achieved with the active participation of community members, by empowering and mobilizing them to come together and find solutions to their common problems.

20.000 people belonging to vulnerable groups, especially Roma, from three counties in South-West Romania, were the beneficiaries of this long-term project that started in May 2013. The twelve selected rural and small urban communities shared the poverty, the lack of opportunities faced by their inhabitants and the high percentage of the Roma minority living there.

The project which came to an end in March 2019 led to over 25% decrease in the dropout rate in eleven schools from the targeted communities. This was achieved through training in multicultural education for more than 420 teachers, offering after-school programmes in these schools, engaging over 1.400 primary and secondary-school students in psychosocial training and activities, and developing multicultural kindergartens that enrolled 436 kids (3-5 y.o.).

Children's and their families' access to healthcare improved as a result of setting up six medical-social centres that were handed over to the local authorities and of training over 40 medical staff members at community level.

Throughout the project, members of these communities changed their attitude towards education and the relationship with local authorities, but they also changed their behaviour towards working together with their family or outsiders for the benefit of their communities. Over 30 local initiatives were developed in partnership with local authorities and 12 groups of active community members were established aiming at continuing the work that started through zefiR project and further developing the communities from these three counties.    

"One thing I noticed in these communities is that when somebody there succeeds, these examples inspire others to do similar things. The problem is with the fear of being the first to start or try something," mentioned Radu Racareanu, Tdh Project Manager.

During these years, more than 300 houses were repaired, equipped with a heating system or received other necessary improvements, thus ensuring better living and learning conditions for more that 600 children and their families.

In 2016 the economic development component was added to the project. Small entrepreneurs from these communities and those having the potential to manage own small businesses received our assistance, which included financial support of 2.200 to 13.500 EUR and training in entrepreneurial skills. 28 small local businesses have been developed in fields such as growing vegetables and melons, collecting and drying forest mushrooms, dairy cattle farming, construction and exterior fittings, wood and metal processing.

"The 9.500 EUR financial support that I received through zefiR project helped me to increase my business capacity for storing the mushrooms longer, in order to preserve their high quality. I now have three halls: one for processing, one for drying the mushrooms and the last one for storing in cold temperature. Their support made a big difference to me," shared Adrian Anghel, an entrepreneur from Bumbești-Jiu.

Watch a documentary presenting the inspiring stories of six Roma families that created small businesses at home and built a better life for themselves thanks to the project.

It is for the first time in Romania when a consortium made of eight Roma and non-Roma NGOs put together their expertise and resources in the benefit of improving the life of vulnerable communities and enriching intercommunity dialogue.

"I believe that it was this partnership, together with the involvement of beneficiaries themselves, children, parents, teachers, social workers, nurses, mayors and others, that created the results in social inclusion and improved the lives of many people. I am proud that Terre des hommes was part of this adventure and I hope zefiR ("zefiR" symbolizes the wind) continues to blow its gentle breeze," concludes Kirsten Theuns, Chief of the Eastern European Delegation, Terre des hommes.

The consortium of organisations included Terre des hommes Romania, Amare Rromentza, Pestalozzi Foundation, PACT Foundation, Community Development Agency ‘Together’, Sastipen, Habitat for Humanity and NESsT Foundation.

zefiR is a project co-financed by a four million EUR grant from Switzerland through the Swiss Contribution to the enlarged European Union.

For further details, please contact: Eliza Drob, Communication Officer at Terre des hommes Romania,