Introducing a new approach to service delivery for Roma in Albania

Roma kid at the Intercultural Community Center in Berat

Have you ever thought that a community center can be a turning point in your life? Ask Manjola. She is a divorced mother of three children, living in Berat, Albania. Challenges are enormous because she lacks education, qualification and faces stigma because she is Roma.  Luckily, she has a job in a supermarket.

One day she found out that a community center was built close to her neighborhood. It housed a kindergarten, a health care studio and a meeting facility. She filed a request to take her two younger children to the kindergarten which has been immediately accepted.
“I have never seen my children so happy. They go to kindergarten every day. They are learning the first letters and how to count. They play and interact with their peers. In the meantime, I can go to work”, said Manjola.
Around 80 Roma and non-Roma children attend the pre-school at the centre which prepares them for primary level education. The health center offers dental care services as well. They are offered free of charge for children and people with disabilities.

“Manjola’s kids had never been checked by a dentist and their teeth were full of severe cavities. She did not know about the need to do regular checkups. Since we established the healthcare studio, we can hardly cope with the increasingly high number of patients”, said Mira, the dentist at the centre.
Manjola and her children are among 200 Roma and non-Roma families who benefit from the services provided by the center. Every day, a nurse and a social worker from the center meet community members, identify their needs and provide counseling to them about health care needs, family planning, and access to services.

The center is part of a series of initiatives carried out by UNDP and the Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth in the framework of the EU-funded “Supporting Social Inclusion of Roma and Egyptian Communities” project in the three regions of Albania- Vlora, Berat and Korca.

Nearly half of Roma and one third of Egyptians in these regions do not have access to social and economic services. 40.3 % of Roma and 12.7% of Egyptians lack compulsory education while 37% of Roma and 20% of Egyptians have no access to healthcare services.
Community members participate in local decision-making through getting together to identify priorities and prepare development plans for their community. Among them, the recently built Intercultural Community Center which serves as a bridge between the Roma and Egyptian communities and local institutions and facilitates access to services.

“Making the voices of Roma and Egyptians heard is key to social inclusion. The center is an excellent example of what can be achieved when people, local authorities and development partners join efforts to offer better services to people”, said Zineb Toumi-Benjelloun, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Albania.
Manjola believes that her family’s life has changed. She has come to understand that education is an important step towards integration of her children in society.  She hopes that her son can become a dentist someday. The way forward seems to be difficult for her, but she says she will not give up. She wants her children to succeed .This is a good beginning.

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