The Step Forward – Empowering Young People and Women from the Local Roma Community project is a two-year initiative, launched in February 2013, lasting 24 months. Performed in Bulgaria, Spain, Romania and Hungary by the Amalipe Center (leading organization), Sanstipen / Romania /, the Roma Women’s Association ‘Drom Kotar’ / Spain / and the Association ‘Colored Pearls’, Pécs / Hungary / in quality your partners. The project is funded by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Justice under the Daphne III program. The project is a continuation of “Promoting Fieldwork in Marginalized and Traditional Groups of the Roma Community” implemented by Amalipe / League Pro Europe / ARSIS in 2011/2012.

Approach and activities:

For nine years now, the Amalipe Center has been working to build and validate a new type of community-based integrated service – the Community Development Center. Through the network of Community Development Centers, the local Roma community development processes are supported. In 2011, 6 Community Development Centers were opened on the territory of Bulgaria, in the municipalities of Peshtera, Novi Pazar, Kameno, Etropole, Byala Slatina and Pavlikeni. There are two Community Moderators working at each Center.

What is a Community Moderator?

The moderator supports the development and modernization of the local Roma community, organizes activities and campaigns in the community, facilitates dialogue and better interaction between the community and local institutions.

In 2013 -2015, the project activities are mainly aimed at strengthening the Community Development Center and the position of Community Moderator – an innovative model for the provision of community-based services through the establishment, testing and implementation of Local Development Clubs for support and expansion of the existing centers. In 2013, an additional 15 Local Development Clubs were established at the Municipal Centers, in larger settlements of municipalities with a predominantly Roma population. The activities of the local clubs are organized by a local moderator, who works in the respective Roma community. Thus, by 2014, a total of 24 community moderators are already working at the municipal and local level to develop the capacity of the local Roma community.

At the level of the municipal center and each of the local development clubs there are one Leader, Youth and Women groups.

Why we work in this direction:

Through its established network of Community Development Centers and Clubs, the Amalipe Center has set itself the task of working to increase the social potential of local communities (with an emphasis on young people and women from the Roma community). The Community Development Center is an integrated service that include social, health, information and educational activities with the primary purpose of helping and supporting the development of the human capacity of local Roma communities and contributing the learning of new social, health, life and even management skills in the local population. Recognizing the fact that the Roma community in Bulgaria is undergoing intense change, the requirement for Centers and Local Development Clubs is associated with the acquisition of skills to attack the most pressing problems facing the community and mobilize leadership in it. The Community Development Centers are an impressive example of increased civic engagement and local solidarity. They show that they can be more than just one local social, health or cultural institution, and that they can integrate and provide many and varied services to the local community. Community development centers have been set up by and for the local community. This makes them unique to all other existing state and non-government services.

Community Development Centers work for both the individual and the family as well as the entire local community. The main driver in their functioning is the idea of ​​activating the whole community – from the youngest child in the respective neighborhood, village, town and municipality, to middle age and adulthood, to the oldest local resident. The focus of the Centers and Community Moderators is not the individual but the community as a whole. The moderators of the Centers are in constant contact with the community, with its problems and successes. This gives the Centers Moderators the role of mediator between citizens with their active position and institutions – local and state. It naturally creates the preconditions for Community Development Centers to participate in the civic participation process, gradually going through its various stages. The beginning of the process is to discuss community issues. The following is a part of their solution. This is the stage at which the Center provokes civic consciousness, gathers and integrates the human resource of the community and provokes people to take on their responsibility to drive change. The biggest challenge in the Centers’ activities is that they are not only open to local topics and problems, but also actively involve the local community in solving them. This is the moment when the Community Development Center becomes the leader in the community.

The main purpose of the work of the Community Development Center is to improve the quality of life of young people with disabilities and minority groups (focusing on the Roma community) by providing integrated quality services aimed at enhancing the social capacity of the community and developing opportunities for social realization of young people and women, through the development and provision of informal community support mechanisms through cooperation with various existing local institutions and professionals and work in multi disciplinary and inter-institutional team.