Over the past 6 years Habitat Bulgaria has been implementing an effective model for providing holistic community support, which includes: • housing microfinance for low-income families; • increasing the local community capacity by delivering life skills training seminars for the beneficiary groups; • providing additional social and community services through a grant funding scheme for small local project initiatives; • supporting early childhood development and raising awareness on issues related to home maintenance, hygienе and family budgeting through an educational board game. During the period July, 2014 – December, 2020 the initiiative was realized with the support of VELUX FOUNDATIONS in the frame of the project “Social Protection and Alleviation from Deprivation for At-risk Children and Adolescents in Bulgaria through Improving Living Conditions and Other Community Based Support” and in cooperation with eight local CBOs.
The model was based on a microfinance facility, which Habitat Bulgaria develops since 2008. The foundation capitalizes revolving Home Improvement Funds, managed by local CBOs, which disburse small interest-free loans to families in need of urgent home repairs. The beneficiary families pay back in small monthly installments, according to their individual capabilities, and the collected funds are available to subsequent families in need. In the frame of this program Habitat Bulgaria has capitalized 249,000 BGN and thanks to its revolving nature the Home Improvement Fund has revolved 7.7 times, allowing the beneficiary families to invest 1,311,430 BGN in home renovations. A total of 2,137 home improvement loans have been provided, thanks to which 3,345 families and 3,784 children live in more comfortable, energy-efficient and healthy homes.
The project was implemented primarily in 8 regions of the country: in Targovishte with Club of NGOs, in Dupnitsa – with Association “Amala-Priateli”, in Kyustendil – with CDC “Vasil Levski 1965″, in Sofia – with “Health and Social Development” Foundation, in Sliven – with Foundation “The Health of Roma”, in Rakitovo – with Foundation “Future”, in Burgas – with Association “Business Center Bourgas” and in Sungurlare – with Association “Informational Business Center Sungurlare”. For a short period of time our implementing partner was also Association “Equilibrium” – in Ruse.
In order to make the housing improvement process more complete, Habitat Bulgaria offered to beneficiaries and potential beneficiaries opportunity to improve their knowledge and skills to manage their financial resources, to keep their houses in good condition and to save energy and resources. The organization has developed three life skills training modules: Family Budgeting Training, Home Maintenance Training and Energy Efficiency Training. The training seminars were practically oriented, based on examples and work tasks that are close to the everyday life routine of the participants and are adapted to the needs and capabilities of the specific target group. Within this program we have organized a total of 54 training seminars with 917 participants.
As an additional way to support the local community, the program offered a sub-granting opportunity for small community-based initiatives. 35 small project initiatives were accomplished for the total amount of 210,035 BGN. A number of activities, mainly related to the education of the children form the target communities have been implemented: establishment of a day center for children from the Roma neighborhood in Targovishte; after-school classes in Bulgarian language, literature and mathematics for children with unsatisfactory school results in Dupnitsa and Kyustendil; summer school for children from the Roma neighborhood “Fakulteta” in Sofia; activities to motivate students to continue their school education and prevent dropping-out of school in Rakitovo; consultations to increase the parental capacity and teach basic skills for raising babies and small kids in Sliven; young entrepreneur training seminars in Sungurlare and Bourgas etc. This opportunity was especially useful and appreciated during the pandemic situation when the students had to adapt within short time to the distant learning school organization. Thanks to the funding provided by Habitat Bulgaria most local organizations were able to help poor students by providing materials, equipment and tutorials for the online school platforms.
Driven by the aim to include the youngest members of our target communities and to transfer knowledge and useful habits related to our three educational modules, we have developed an educational board game “The Neighborhood”. The game consists of play-filed, cards and pawns and was designed for children aged 8 -12. The players read and perform the actions written on the cards and as part of the game they learn important concepts related to organizing their daily routine, saving energy and resources, maintaining personal hygiene and healthy habits, keeping the home energy efficient and sustainable, saving money to achieve specific goals.
The main focus of this 6-year program was to improve the housing conditions in order to ceate a better and healthier environment for children to live, study and socialize. Overall, trough home renovation loans, sub-granted small project initiatives and the board game, we have supported 11,951 children.
The partnership model implemented by Habitat Bulgaria complements and adds on value to the various social support, offered be the local NGOs. The model was appreciated as a good practice and as an example of a holistic approach to solving the multiple problems of vulnerable communities by influential organizations, such as The European Commission and the European Network EUROCHILD. Habitat Bulgaria and partners are motivated to continue implementing this model, as well as to expand its scope to other regions of the country.
● THE VELUX FOUNDATIONS are comprised of the two non-profit foundations VILLUM FONDEN and VELUX FONDEN. Among our grant areas are natural, technical, health and human sciences. We also support environmental, social and cultural purposes in Denmark and internationally. Both foundations were created by Villum Kann Rasmussen–the founder of VELUX and other companies in the VKR Group, whose mission it is to bring daylight, fresh air and a better environment into people’s everyday lives. To learn more about The Velux Foundations visit: www.veluxfoundations.dk
● Habitat Bulgaria is part of the large network of Habitat for Humanity, a global non-governmental organization operating in all 50 states in the US, as well as in over 70 countries worldwide. Since its founding in 1976, the organization has helped more than 35 million people to improve their living conditions by providing housing assistance such as building homes, public works and repairs, and by improving access to the housing market at affordable prices. https://hfh.bg/en