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Fakulteta

PRE-SCHOOLS IN FAKULTETA
In a little district on the outskirts of Bulgaria's capitol, Sofia, there is a slum area called Fakulteta.  There are close to 60 000 Gypsies living here that are severly segregated and discriminated  against by their fellow countryman.  In many ways, these people are left to fend for themselves and try to build a sustainable and healthy life without much needed financial help from the government.  In Fakulteta, our strongest supporters are Project Garbage Dump and Benjamin Lie's Memorial Fund.  Since 2010, they have been responsible for a large part of the budget and following up the project.  Without their strong participation, we could not be where we are today.  Together we are strong!

In Fakulteta, people have access to clean water, but there is no sewage system so all the sewage just runs out in the streets.  They steal electricity from each other wherever they can and the standard of living is some of the worst that you can find in Europe.  Larger families, with 6-8 members, often live in shacks that are approx 10-15 square meters.  We now operate 2 social service centers in this slum area for the Gypsy children called Benjamins House and Life and Light.  Here we focus on following up on the education, nutrition and health of the Gypsy children.  We also have a pre-school program with teachers that have recently graduated with their degrees.  The challenge we face is that most of the children do not speak Bulgarian, but Romania, the language of the Gypsies.  This makes it difficult to find teachers. Our wish of course is to facilitate the use of the public school system so that the Gypsy children will have the same benefits in education as the rest of the children in Bulgaria.  To reach this goal, we try to meet the elementary needs of the children such as clothing, packed lunches and school supplies.  At the same time we have a frequent dialog in place with the public school teachers and principals to help integrate the children in the most successful manner.  There are many challenges and problems in our path, but with eager and devoted colleagues that have a passion for our work, we hope to change the future and lives of many of these children.  
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Stefan (Stefcho)

Little Stefcho was a huge inspiration to one of our staff members, Thomas Rudmoen Løkken. He is the boy with a very difficult life, but the worlds biggest smile. At the age of 8, he has never had his own room, bed, shower in the home or even warm clothes. During the winter, he would go out in tights and a thin, cotton top in sub-zero weather.  Thomas was shocked each time he saw Stefan, but could never find his parents. We would get him into our cafeteria as quickly as possible and keep him warm as we went through our stock of clothing to find something that would fit him. At times we would see him stomping around in ladies, high heeled shoes.

His father was in and out of jail and in a 2 year period, Stefan only saw him a couple of times. His mother is a prostitute that is only home sporadically. Stefcho is incredibily independent for his young age and can practilically take care of himself without the care of his mother and father. Despite this, he runs around with a huge, playful smile on his face and the hugs Stefan gives are close, warm and welcoming.  He is mischievous and likes to fight, but what can you expect from a child with his background. Stefan comes often to Benjamins House, but not everyday so it is difficult to give him follow-up care. Thomas was always curious as to where Stefan was and what he was doing.  It was hard to understand that this little boy was running around alone, making the days go by. 

We have him in school now and that requires massive follow-up from us. We make his lunch, wash him, buy him clothes and drive him to school. Unfortunately,  his parents just don't care. We at Europe in Focus do what we can so that tough little Stefcho can have the opportunities he deserves in his life. Thomas says that helping Stefcho lead a successful life makes all the hard work worth it. The little differences we do are big enough for him.
 

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Chiselet

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Each day, over 100 Gypsy children in Chiselet receive help with their homework, transportation to and from school and a warm meal.  It is often the only meal they will have each day.  For the youngest children, there is pre-school where they begin to learn everything.  Fine motor skills, the alphabet, how to count and how to behave at school.  The youth receive guidance and help in regards to their...
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Gradistea og House of Joy

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These centers, one for males and one for females, wish to help men, women, boys and girls that are in different situations in their lives be free from life-controlling dependencies.  Drugs, alcohol, gambling, prostitution, human trafficking, violence and crime have taken over the lives of the people we meet at these centers.  The team that works there have all had a similar past, some have received help themselves at our...
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