Kriszta Bódis (writer, documentalist and psychologist) the professional leader of You Belong! deals with managing social problems affecting her community.
The result of the nearly 20-year long activity is the system of those services which were realized at the Hétes settlement until 2013 which was named the Creation-oriented model program.
Hétes is a Roma settlement in Ózd, where there is neither clean water, nor central heating system, or work and where nearly 400 mostly unemployed, disadvantaged people live, fighting their accumulated debt. Condensed in a small area poor housing and appalling social and health conditions rule the settlement, whose youth population exceeds the elderly.
The Creation-oriented model program was developed from the participant’s observation of the local relations and the culture, and the establishment of trust partnerships.
The activities in Ózd started with a film-making that shed light on the support of a large disadvantaged Roma family and the human rights activism regarding the evictions concerning thousands of the Roma population.
During this period, Kriszta Bódis engaged volunteer locals and civilians to handle the local problems, also present on a national level. In the first years of the organization’s creation, the eviction of nearly 100 families was prevented, a national debt-management program was developed, settlement rehabilitation programs were initiated, donations were collected and given out to families in need.
As and from 2007 Kriszta Bódis organized yearly the so-called Creative camp at Hétes settlement. The involvement into the process of creation, as well as the constant experience of creation, value-creation, or in other words the position of the creator, formed a community.
Following the success of the volunteering work, the You Belong! Foundation was founded in 2011.
“The principle of our work here is for the people to start believing that with their actions, creativity and cooperation, we can achieve changes and they can find tipping points.”
Such a community was formed, who joined forces in order to better their living conditions, who could build a lavatory house, who could transform a dumpster into a football field. In addition, people were empowered to write and send their CV-s and with its help to enable them to findemployment. Children were constantly taking part in the extracurricular educational programs of the foundation. They were able to create prize-winning video clips (Valovi rap winning a Plural Plus prize) or making interviews for a TV program. Finally, people were also able to represent the work of the organization at conferences. There were several additional positive changes that could be listed here.
The Hétes settlement practice, the Creation-oriented social and integration model, demonstrated how it is possible to manage social disadvantages in a complex, successful way.
Our innovations were rewarded on an international level. Our suggestions reached high legislative and integrative policy levels.
A creation oriented settlement
It is an activity of an inclusive organization. The organization moving into the settlement, lives together with the locals, mapping out the major problems. The personal relationships and partnerships built with the locals enables the sustainability of the results. The Film and Media Workshop was an extraordinary initiative that started the change of people’s perspectives. Its originality lies within the fact that filming is a tool for personal and community skill development, instead of being a film project including or simply starring underprivileged people. The operation of the You Belong! System is documented and followed from the perspective of a participant. The results of the creation-oriented model program in Hétes are as follows:
We succeeded to recover the central lightning after 20 years, with the help of the electricity provider. Afterwards, together with the locals we refurbished the entire cable system in all houses and we installed prepaid electro-meters. Thus, the life-threatening and illegal electricity-stealing was ended. The men living in Hétes gathered in work groups and made interior refurbishment of their own homes. Finally, we managed to dig a water-pipe system, which prevented minimal water retention.
Due to the constant presence of our social worker, we managed to build an alarm system with the local GP-s, hospital and health visitors. In addition, we maximized the vaccinations and regular health checks of the people. In the last four years we succeeded to do fertilizing on a half-yearly basis. With the support of GSK medical provider, we were able to provide prescribed medicine while working together with the hospital and GP-s. We worked out the list of medicine based on the local requirements. Moreover, by building the lavatory house, daily hygiene was enabled. During the winter season we provided warm clothing in order to minimize diseases from complications resulting from cold. Finally within our settlement doctor program we arranged volunteer doctors to come to the area on a monthly basis, who firstly, provided health advice, and helped in understanding, medical records and final medical reports, secondly, directed people into proper medical treatment.
In the first renovation period, locals rebuilt their homes. The invested work and material was written off against their debts, which resulted in restructuring 90% of the debts of the households, as well as legalizing the tenant status of 5 families. Official status, resulted in the eligibility for housing support and other benefits. The introduction of instalment payments for the housing and utility debts along with somewhat decreasing them, was a continuous task. In addition, we have induced the families’ willingness to pay through the constant work of a social worker by discussing payment deadlines and amounts. The two central pins of the settlement, were graded public drinking fountains, thus the costs of the water-use covering primary care were redirected to the municipality. We received the status to organize volunteering work in public interest, which made it possible for the locals to realize their compulsory volunteering service in order to receive their benefits. Local volunteers took part in organizing donations, in managing the lavatory house and in cleaning the settlement. Together with the municipality we organized a debt management work-group. We managed to agree with the local firms about managing public employment and public housing, where a voluntary amount was withheld from their salaries, to settle their debts. Those cooperating with us, were favoured at the allocation of public work places. Finally, on several occasions we managed to prevent taking usury (funerals, fines, clothing, travelling etc.) , with the help of private donors and our micro-credit program.
Through our programs, we aimed to employ as much Roma underprivileged locals as possible. From our available budget, we employed semi-skilled workers in our infrastructure development programs and local coordinators in our educational programs. Together with the municipality and the employment centre, we facilitated entering into the START public employment program. Our help included, CV preparation workshops, communication with employers and travel support.
Our volunteers held creation-oriented, developmental, extracurricular activities for children of different age groups. We built a signalling system with the local educational institutions, which enables us to be immediately informed about the problems and successes of the children. School absences decreased, as well as the results have bettered. In addition, the result of the creation-oriented sessions is that our pupils performed better and more confidently in class. Children experienced that constant sense of achievement and the positive feedbacks are a result of concentrated, cooperative work. With governmental involvement, we organized weekly football trainings, held by local coaches for our teenager and adult teams. We aimed at constantly enforcing a realistic, positive vision for the children, through constant consultation sessions, informal meetings, and creative procedures. All of the families took part in our “Little gardens” program, where the received seeds, were sowed and nurtured. In addition, members of the families took part in a gardening training workshop. Furthermore, almost everyone took part in one of our cultural events, creative sessions, joint celebrations, concerts, theatre, art or film workshops. Although our work is intra-generational, it focuses mainly on children and youth. The originality of our creative-camps was that they were happening right at the settlement. They attracted people from the cities and even from abroad, who have never set foot in a Roma settlement before. During the program, we had almost a hundred local and freelance volunteer activists and professionals working with us. The camp was the result of the joint work of the locals and the visitors, which led to a shared experience. During this week, locals called the settlement “the valley of happiness”, when they could put aside their everyday live issues of survival and enjoy the result of a joint work.
The inclusion and training of volunteers
Our volunteers are professionals that contribute with their knowledge and extensive experience to the model program. Training happens in the practice with our leadership and supervision. The local version of volunteering was also formed, which had great effect on the locals. We have more than 100 registered volunteers.
One of the basis of the government's “Complex housing and training based job-market model program of those living in segregated areas and deep poverty (TÁMOP 5.3.6)” was the methodology and result of the creation-oriented integration and social model. However, the concept was redesigned to favour the centralized system and its actors. The foundation continues to involve families living in the Hétes settlement in its programs, but the complex settlement work could not continue.