2023 marks the ten year anniversary of His Excellency Franz Salm-Reifferscheidt’s tenure as the Order of Malta’s Ambassador at Large for the Roma people. To mark this milestone, the Global Fund for Forgotten People has produced a brochure detailing the growth and achievements of the Order of Malta’s support for Roma communities.
“The Order of Malta has always worked with those who have no other means of support. As we look to the future, I want to ensure our continued presence in these communities for as long as the need exists, expanding the services and support we offer our Roma friends to safeguard their health and happiness.” HE Franz Salm-Reifferscheidt
Between 10 and 12 million Roma currently live in Europe. They have faced persecution, rejection and forced assimilation for centuries and discrimination continues today. 48% of Roma in Europe live in poverty, 68% of Roma children leave school earlier than their peers and only 18% go on to higher education. They may be refused access to housing or evicted without notice, denied entrance to mainstream schools, and refused jobs. Many are stateless, lacking papers to prove citizenship in the country where they live.
Over the last decade the Order’s work with Roma communities has expanded from a handful of projects to 25 centres across nine countries: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine.
The foundation of the Order of Malta’s approach to working with Roma communities is presence. Staff and volunteers build relationships with the families and communities they serve, based on mutual trust and respect. Although projects vary across countries, projects are always guided by the same core principles: dignity and self-esteem, presence for the long term, integration not assimilation, investing in future generations and a tailored, needs-based approach.
Over the last ten years, the Fund has awarded 32 grants to Roma projects which have helped to establish new programmes, and expand others to reach ever greater numbers of people. Some examples include:
Cultural activities are also important in encouraging integration and participation in education. The Order of Malta in Romania has established a centre which offers a range of hygiene, educational and recreational services and activities but is best known for its horse riding and equestrian vaulting programme. The requirement for taking part is attending the afterschool programme. Denes, 17, came to the programme with a love of animals but little interest in school. His participation has allowed him to excel at vaulting and jumping, while continuing his studies. He is now a triple national champion as well as helping to train the younger children.
“I have a dream, which is to be the European vaulting champion but also to help other children fulfil their dreams, just as Valea Crisului helped me fulfil mine” Denes
If you would like to make a donation to the work of the Order in support of Roma communities, please contact Ruth Stanley [email protected].