The Health and Social Development Foundation (HESED) was founded and started its activities in 1998. The multiethnic (Roma and Bulgarian) and multidisciplinary team includes more than 35 specialists in the fields of pedagogy, psychology, social work, medicine, human rights protection, journalism, management, etc., and Roma community workers. The team implements programmes in three main areas: Roma community development programmes; health programmes for vulnerable groups; research in the field of behavioural change.
HESED’s professional team has 14 years of experience in working with Roma communities and has implemented many successful projects targeting Roma children and their families in the field of education and health promotion and has set good practice examples for work with this target group. Some of the projects include:
- OAK Foundation-funded project Alternative services for parenting skills and child development of children aged 0-5 as prevention of institutionalization
- PHARE project Deinstitutionalization and Reintegration of Roma Children at Risk through Community-Based Services in Fakulteta Neighborhood, Sofia
- PHARE project Programme for Acceptance and Coping of Roma Children with the Requirements of Bulgarian Schools
- U.S. Embassy-funded project Promoting Successful Parental Models for Support of Roma Children in the Process of Pre-School Preparation
- Medical College of Wisconsin and Cooperating Dutch Foundations- funded project Establishment of a Health and Social Center in the Roma Community
- PHARE project Prevention of Socially Significant Diseases in the Roma Community
- UNDP-funded project Health for the Roma
- PHARE project Women’s Actions for Health Promotion within Underprivileged Communities
- EAHC funded European project SRAP with the aim to tackle the prevention and reduction of use/abuse of legal/illegal substances among young Roma
HESED established the first community-based health and social center in the Roma community in 2003 and the first mobile medical unit for outreach services for vulnerable groups. At the Centre our experts develop and evaluate modern programs targeted at:
- Life skills development of adolescents (12-15-years-old) for prevention of early marriages, institutionalization of children from the Roma community and risky behavior and preparation for enrolment in qualification courses;
- Development of parenting skills, help- and health-seeking behavior targeted at pregnant women and parents of children 0-3 years.
- Alternative service for early childhood development for children 4-6 years who do not attend kindergartens; the service offers daily sessions with the children to develop cognitive, social, linguistic and motor skills and sessions with the parents. This service contributes significantly to prevention of school drop-out.
- Support for families for improvement of housing conditions through interest-free loans and training in family budget management, referral to medical services, provision of baby food, provision of information and assistance in accessing employment opportunities, individual case management.
This model was assessed as a good practice and the model of community-based services was disseminated and further developed in the largest Roma settlements in the country in the framework of the National Programme for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control and the Programme for Improvement of the Control of Tuberculosis in Bulgaria implemented by the Ministry of Health and funded by the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Since 2003 until now our team of experts has been engaged with the development of the strategy, capacity building of local teams, monitoring and evaluation of 14 NGOs subcontracted to provide community services in the Roma neighbourhoods. This Programme was evaluated as the best practice among all the Eastern European and Central Asian programmes of the GFAMT.