The Saints Louis e Zelie Martin Centre in Beregovo, in Western Ukraine, was inaugurated on 7 June at the Malteser Relief Service headquarters in the Ukrainian city. The new centre – which was opened thanks to the excellent collaboration between the Malteser Relief Service of Beregovo with the Malteser Relief Service of Hungary – is the 22nd centre for Roma people managed by the Order of Malta in Europe.
The Ambassador of the Sovereign Order of Malta to the Rome People, Franz Salm- Reiferscheid – who participated in the inauguration explained: “When I visited Beregovo 3 years ago and saw the settlement of the Roma with approx. 6,500 people, I promised the Order of Malta Relief Service in Beregovo, to help in building up a centre for Roma children. At that time, they had just two rooms in a rented building. A house was bought next to the office building with an adjoining garden that the children use to play”.
The new centre will provide assistance to the children of the Roma community through after-school classes, study of art, sports, music and many other activities that will encourage their social integration.
The Ambassador further relayed the progress made in all the centres for Roma children managed by the Order of Malta’s entities in Eastern Europe: “Within just some months we see the first positive changes: children acquire more self-esteem and perform better in school”.
“The biggest integration issue concerns language as most of the population – including Roma settlement – do not speak Ukrainian therefore a lot of tutoring is focused on teaching the local language” Ambassador Franz Salm- Reiferscheid explained. The next steps will see the launch of apprenticeships for professions needed in the area, such as carpenters, hairdressers, cooks etc. to encourage entry into the labor market.
The Order of Malta has many projects in Hungary, Romania, Albania, Croatia and Ukraine aimed at helping Roma children – who historically have a high rate of school drop-outs – to attend school, to integrate and to enter the world of work. A new centre is scheduled to open in Romania next September, marking the 30th anniversary of Order’s relief service in the country.