“Romani families in Transylvania live under shocking conditions in tiny, makeshift huts without water, most of them also without electricity. In winter these people clad their huts in corrugated metal and plastic sheeting to help protect themselves from the wind and cold. The adults and children are stricken by poverty, isolation and poor education. They have lost any form of dignity, self-esteem and awareness even for basic things such as cleanliness and hygiene. We are committed to representing their needs. We want to give them hope and help them build a different, more promising life.”
Ruth Zenkert and Pater Georg Sporschill launched the “Elijah” project in the summer of 2012. They provide help to the poorest Romani families in Transylvania. The communist terror regime that was in power up to 1989 had driven the Romani ethnic group to the fringe of society. Only now, with difficulty, are they beginning to recover from the many forms of discrimination and exclusion they have suffered over the years.
As the Romani settlements are frequently typified by poverty and neglect, the project makes a start by offering aid with fundamentals such as cleanliness in the home, washing clothes, planting vegetable gardens, weatherproofing roofs and walls or installing stoves and toilets.
Together with the inhabitants, “Elijah” has also set up small social centers. Families can make use of the sanitary installations and laundry facilities in these centers. There are clothing stores as well as sewing and ironing rooms where the women have the opportunity to work, and there are rooms where advice is offered on the subject of approaching the authorities and on personal matters. Educational support is also available for children who have missed time at school or have no opportunity to learn at home. The facilities offered in the social centers unite the people in facing their hardships and anxieties and make it clear that they are not being left to their own devices, that there are people who care about their destiny.
A music school has also recently been set up at one of the three locations. Local musicians and guest teachers provide instruction to the children at no cost. The children have fun and take great delight in making music. It also gives them a sense of importance and acceptance. They learn to express themselves, to find a rhythm and to listen to each other. The music often also eases mental anguish and inspires them.
The goal of the work being done by “Elijah” is to help the people achieve a more dignified life, especially the children.
Social entrepreneurs: Ruth Zenkert and Pater Sporschill
Goal: Improvement of the living conditions for Romani families. Furtherance of basic education for the children.
Period of support: since 2013