Europe, Middle East & North Africa
Photo: Paul Jeffrey
Roma Children’s Program
Church World Service is taking part in the effort to break a cycle of poverty that consigns Eastern Europe’s Roma people to lives of deprivation and need. Since 2003, CWS has worked with partners to support schools offering primary and secondary education for Roma and other vulnerable children and to provide literacy training and income-generating programs for women in Roma communities in Serbia.
The Roma, among the most marginalized people on Earth, live in abject poverty, usually without proper legal documents such as identification cards, passports, residence permits or birth registrations. The lack of documents means they have almost zero access to schooling, employment, health care or housing.
The Inclusive Roma Education-Outreach Program to Involve Street Children in Formal Education serves Roma children who beg or work in the streets or who do not attend school. To reduce the risks of street life for these children a local center operated by CWS partner, Branko Pesic, hosts up to 100 children daily at a daycare center. Runaways, orphans, refugees and internally displaced children can eat, bathe, change clothes and receive medical examinations at the center. The young people, including Roma and other vulnerable children, also are encouraged to take advantage of the schooling offered at CWS’s Branko Pesic primary school.
CWS programs with Roma women in Serbia provide literacy classes and life-skills training to help women develop positive self-concepts and skills needed to function effectively in society and deal with various institutions as a first step in breaking the cycle of poverty.