About FSCI

FSCI is working with its partners to break the cycle of poverty in Southeastern Europe.

Committed to change

FSCI has its roots in work first begun in Bulgaria by The Trussell Trust. This work has grown to encompass the surrounding region. We are helping to prevent children being abandoned and young people being forced into crime, prostitution and human trafficking. By demonstrating through our programmes that there is a better way to help marginalised individuals and communities, we want to be part of a change that sees a more inclusive society, where everyone has the chance of a fulfilling life.

Foundation
Building on a firm footing – we want to help people achieve results that will last.

For
We believe that things should and can be better.

Social Change
When people work together they transform their communities and societies but…

And
…transformation cannot take place unless…

Inclusion
… everybody can participate.

Abandoned

Hundreds of children every month are abandoned throughout SE Europe

Mortality

Infant mortality is high and family planning is often too expensive.

Vulnerable

80% of abandoned Bulgarian children are of Roma origin. The rates are similarly disproportionate in other countries in the region.

In depth:

The House of Opportunity Programme

Every year thousands of young people across the Balkans leave state institutions and foster care. With a lack of proper education, no idea of how the real world works, no family to support them and no help from the state, they are left to make their own way in life. Many fall prey to traffickers and pimps, while others end up living in extreme poverty. Many will go on to abandon their own children. This is repeated by the next generation in what becomes a cycle of abandonment.

Prevention, not rescue
Our House of Opportunity Programme (HOP) provides care leavers with up to two years of life skills training, employment opportunities and accommodation in a family-style, small group home. FSCI’s team have experience and knowledge of how to set up and run a residential training programme to equip vulnerable young people with the tools they need to live successful, independent lives free from crime and prostitution. In this way these young people are never drawn into the path of criminals and exploiters – saving them them from trauma and the subsequent long-term mental and physical problems. There are financial benefits too; a reduction in crime and expensive rehabilitation programmes and HOP graduates going on to become taxpayers and net contributors to their community.

Evaluation proves that real transformation is possible. A recent study showed that 53 percent of young people on the Programme started work, 74 percent improved their social skills, 25 percent improved their level of education or are in the process of doing so, 78 percent have a place of their own to live after the Programme, 100 percent have preserved or improved their health.

How it works
Our residential training centres equip vulnerable young people with the skills they need to live successful, independent lives.

Budgeting & IT:
Houses of Opportunity enable residents to learn essential life skills and complete their education. State care leavers in particular often suffer for lack of these, many having been sidelined at school.

Education & Employment:
We work with residents to support their continued education or help them apply for and retain a job. HOP staff foster good relationships with local employers.

Cooking Skills:
Stoyil joined the House of Opportunity unable to use a knife and fork. He is now a great cook! Learning essential domestic skills is a part of every HOP resident’s personal development plan.

Family style home :
House parents provide each resident with individual care in safe, nurturing environment. This is perhaps the single most important factor in a resident’s progress.

What does it cost?
FSCI and its partners operate 11 Houses of Opportunity in Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Albania.

There are also plans to develop HOPs with our partners in Moldova and Greece (where the programme may be adapted for helping unaccompanied young refugees).

Each House of Opportunity costs between €25,000 and €35,000 a year to run, depending upon which country and city it is based.

Sofia typical costs (monthly):
Rent: rent-free agreement*
Staff salaries: €1150
Food for residents: €320 (5 residents)
Utilities: €175

Serbia typical costs (monthly):
Rent: €265
Staff salaries: €1650
Food for residents: €400
(5 residents)
Utilities: €200

*We seek rent-free apartments from municipal authorities wherever we operate, but where the need is great and we have good partners we will rent suitable property.

Will you consider supporting the House of Opportunity Programme?

Numbers

There are 11 million+ Roma in East & Southeast Europe.

Exploited

Many thousands of people are trafficked from Southeast Europe every year – generating € billions of illegal income for criminal organisations.

Marginalised

Over 80% of Bulgaria’s 700,000+ Roma people live below the poverty line – it’s not much different in other Balkan states. Roma people are the most marginalised group in Europe and have little opportunity to break out of poverty due to very poor access to education, employment, health care and legal representation.

Poverty

Roma minorities are living in ‘third world conditions’ with Roma scoring as low on the Human Development Index (HDI) * as some countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. * A United Nations measurement that rates human opportunity for health, welfare, education and economic development.

In depth:

The Early Years Education Programme

Excluded, marginalised, trapped
The Roma community is very marginalised in Bulgaria; they are treated with prejudice and suspicion. People in some parts of the community live in extreme poverty and have very poor access to education and health care. There is a significant generational poverty cycle which it is very difficult for their children to escape from.

Education is a key factor in breaking out of this poverty cycle because those with basic qualifications, such as the Bulgarian School Diploma, have a much better chance of gaining legitimate employment.

There are, however, very significant barriers to young Roma children successfully entering the education system. Research shows that reasons for the general failure of educational work with Roma are of a complex and difficult nature.

The following reasons are strong factors in why Roma children find it difficult to adapt to the school environment and to integrate further in society:

  • Low levels of literacy and qualification among adult Roma; severe social isolation of the Roma community;
  • Low standard of living (a factor in low school attendance, incomplete participation in educational activities and high rate of school dropouts);
  • Lack of good child care skills and responsible parenthood in the community;
  • High unemployment rate amongst ethnic minorities;
  • Myths, attitudes and prejudice which aggravate marginalisation.

The consequence is a poor level of school attendance and a high level of drop-out for those who do attend. Only 11 percent of Roma children in Bulgaria will go on to graduate high school. This results in difficulties in securing legitimate employment, and young people end up working in low skill jobs or becoming involved in criminal activities.

How our kindergartens work
Our Early Years Education Programme consists of special kindergartens tailored to individual communities. By working together with families we aim to provide a vital pathway into education for marginalised children.

Specialist team:
A blend of experience and local community knowledge is essential in encouraging increased levels of education in Roma neighbourhoods.

Teaching:
Learning basic literacy and numeracy skills and creative play prepares kindergarten children for their critical step up to primary school.

Investing in families:
Outreach workers form relationships with each family; encouraging them to keep their children learning and growing in confidence and ability.

Community relations:
Promoting the value of education in the surrounding community and providing other useful services, such as housing advice.

Leading the way
Sevda is part of the team at the Fakulteta kindergarten in Sofia. She is a keen advocate of education in Roma communities.

“Since my early years I have been volunteering in different NGOs that work in our community. After graduating as an assistant tutor I became part of the FSCI team that works in the neighbourhood of Faculteta where I grew up and still live. I want to be a good example for the young people in our community and to help them and their parents change their attitudes towards education and early marriages”.

Beyond Bulgaria…
FSCI is working to replicate this model in other Roma communities. In partnership with A2B Albania we opened a kindergarten in Peqin, Albania, in September 2016.

We have also supported a kindergarten start-up in Chisinau, Moldova, with our partners, Beginning of Life.

What does it cost?
Our kindergartens cost €19,000 – €25,000 per year to run.

Fakulteta, Bulgaria, typical costs (monthly):
Rent: €95
Staff salaries: €1050
Food for children: €105
(12 children per day)

Peqin, Albania, typical costs (monthly):
Rent: €100
Staff salaries: €1120
Food for children: €880
(Breakfast and lunch for 30 children per day)

Will you consider supporting the Early Years Education Programme?

Unqualified

Less than 10% of Bulgarian Roma children complete secondary school education.

Joblessness

In many Roma neighbourhoods, unemployment stands at around 80-85%; literacy levels sometimes only reach 80%.

Water

Over 40% of Roma have no access to running water.

Building on success
Based on the success of the Faculteta kindergarten we plan to increase the number of places available – ensuring that even more children in this community get the best possible start to their education.

We have been gifted some land and we plan to build a bespoke community centre that will allow us to expand the kindergarten and also set up services such as housing and welfare advice, family planning, adult education, teen support groups, job searching, and medical clinics which will benefit the whole community of Faculteta.

This community-led approach will help marginalised families to realise futures filled with possibility for their children and help set a template for similar projects in other communities.

The cost of building and equipping the new centre will be £65,000. Would your organisation be willing to help raise funds for this innovative and vital project?