Positive Change Brick by Brick — HERO in Slovakia

Slovakia, home to 500,000 Roma residents, grapples with challenges that echo in the statistics: less than 35% live in integrated, inclusive communities, fewer than 40% have access to proper sewage systems, and less than 65% enjoy a reliable public water supply. These numbers fuel the Housing and Empowerment of Roma (HERO) mission — to transform lives.

In this pilot EU project, 290 people from Dobšiná, Jelšava, Kamenná Poruba, Podhorany, Rudňany, and other municipalities embarked on their home-ownership journey with the help of Project DOM.ov and social banking by Slovenská sporiteľňa.

It’s more than just housing. It’s a testament to the positive change happening brick by brick.

Empowering HEROs in Slovakia

HERO is more than a housing project; it’s a comprehensive support system designed to empower families. Here’s what makes home-ownership a reality for Roma families in Slovakia:

  • Personalized Construction Plan and Sustainable Family Budget: Families receive tailored financial guidance, ensuring that their plans align with each unique circumstance. Through sustainable family budgeting, HERO empowers families to manage their finances wisely and make informed decisions.
  • Credit Assistance and Accessible Financing: HERO ensures that Roma families have access to fair financing options and bank loans, which are repaid in full over the committed period.
  • Guidance for Construction Permits and Building Processes: HERO actively assists in processing all documents related to the construction works. Participants can engage with counsellors on a wide range of topics, becoming integral contributors to this collective journey.
  • Skill Development Assistance: HERO supports families with skill development during construction, providing the know-how and enhancing their capabilities to construct or self-renovate the house. Additionally, the newly acquired skills make our participants more competitive in the labour market. 

The HERO journey is not a one-time event, but a commitment that can span up to two decades. Each family receives dedicated support, as they take a loan and commit to repaying it over approximately 18 years, depending on the loan amount. During the entire period, various interventions are implemented, whether it is job counselling, financial counselling, or help with debt relief. 

With the assistance of a social coordinator, construction coordinator, and construction instructor, the HERO participants are continuously monitored and motivated to overcome the obstacles, taking them toward independent home ownership.

Constructing homes; building up communities. 

These all are not just theoretical steps of an imaginary path — HEROs from multiple municipalities in Slovakia have embarked on a journey of constructing their own homes. Already five beautiful buildings in Varhaňovce and seven more in Zborov are taking shape, crafted with pride by the very hands of the families they will shelter. 

Beyond the construction sites, HERO is fostering a sense of community. Beneficiaries from different regions exchange experiences, as they visit each other’s projects. Touring the self-build houses and engaging in meaningful conversations with local communities — these are the tangible results of the HERO journey we witness today in Slovakia.

Transformative effects of the HERO project

HERO endeavours to foster sustainable change, with knowledge serving as a fundamental cornerstone. The first 85 individuals across Kamenná Poruba, Toporec, Dobšiná, Vechec, and Zborov have undergone financial literacy training and are now equipped to navigate the financial landscape with confidence

Beyond constructing houses, HERO empowers individuals with hands-on experience, fostering a sense of capability and self-determination, becoming a catalyst for multifaceted change:

Paving a Path for Future Generations: As families engage in building their own homes, thinking of the next generations serves as the main motivation. are cultivated. Breaking the cycle of dependency, starting with house-ownership, opens new opportunities for their children: 

Participant from Vechec: “We don’t have running water here, only a well. And we want things to be better for us… especially for the children.”

Personal Property Mindset: The HERO initiative sparks a mindset shift towards personal property. Participants express the profound impact on their lives, turning dreams of having their own house into a tangible reality.

Participant from Zborov: “We live in a flat with eight people. I don’t have the means to build a house on my own. But we want to try it. We want to become independent.”

Inclusive Local Communities: HERO creates new hubs of collaboration, integration, and inclusion, contributing to the newfound independence and sense of community pride for Roma participants. 

Social Field Worker: “[Participants] learn to overcome obstacles. They are people who depend on other people. With this program, they learn to be more independent.”

Two more countries — two more success stories

The HERO project supports participants not only in the physical construction of houses but also in building empowered individuals and vibrant communities. With every brick laid, our HEROs are not merely constructing buildings; they are turning dreams into reality. 

Or as Marián Zeman, director of Projekt DOM.ov, puts it: “Active participation of clients is a key principle of the HERO project. With our help, even socially weaker families can finance and build their own legal house. With our results, we break myths by demonstrating what is indeed possible.”

Follow HERO on social media and read the next blogs to further explore the stories from Bulgaria and Romania, both serving as powerful testaments to the transformative impact of collaborative endeavours.