The Real Pearl Foundation is a non-profit civil organisation in Hungary whose primary focus is art education and talent development where they support socially disadvantaged Roma and non-Roma children. They are also heavily involved in family community development programmes.
We are operating in one of the most disadvantaged regions of the country and out of our 600 students, 350 live in deep poverty, most of whom are of Roma ethnicity. Our students win over 500 awards annually both in national and international contests (where the jury has no information of the children's background). One child told us “I have won many prizes with my drawings but the best was when we went to Budapest for 3 days. My mum had a hard time letting me go. I was afraid too because I have never been on a trip when I had to sleep away from home but it was great! It was the first time I have seen Budapest, and everyone was nice.” Throughout the creative processes all possible competencies develop significantly; thinking and social skills, and their knowledge about the world too. Since one can only depict things one knows about. It is very important that Roma and non-Roma, poor and better-off students learn and work together.
Alongside the art-school, our foundation engages in community development, primarily involving the families of our students. The third pillar of our work is generating institutional cooperation – among authorities, schools, hospitals and NGOs. We are working towards an adaptable model based on our methods and experiences.
Our community development work is concentrated in one of the small villages within our support network – which consists of 13 settlements in the Told region. There are 350 people living in Told, and only seven are employed. Most of the houses are in very poor condition, there is no water in the homes, there is no sanitation system in the village and the gas network only reaches the main street. Geographical segregation, lack of access to public services, low levels of education and the state of the local economy leave little hope for these people to find a job and their place in society. We are determined to change this.
We have been doing our complex community development program in Told for over five years and the results of our work are apparent. We managed to build a relationship based on mutual trust; the parents of our students understand that we are also keen to build a future for their children. Some examples of our projects are a home and community garden programme, a scholarship-scheme and the pay-as-you-go electricity meter programme.
In Told, we also set up biomass-briquette manufacturing project where locals can volunteer to make their own heating fuel for the winter from locally sourced agricultural waste. This is to provide an alternative to poorly accessible, expensive wood as well as to reduce the burning of inappropriate synthetic materials.
Our foundation aims to encourage families to become self-sufficient and find ways of creating jobs locally. We want to break the stereotypes of people living in deep poverty by proving that they can and want to change their circumstances if the opportunity is given to them.
We set up a “social webshop” through which we sell handicrafts made by local Roma and non-Roma women who embroider children’s art work onto products such as mobile phone cases, pillows or handbags (these are also sewn locally). Through this the women earn a small wage for every piece they complete. This project and the webshop is called “Suno” which means dream in Romani language. Oni is part of this community in Told, she is living in a difficult situation. She was chosen by the organisation to be one of their 6 key workers. Oni explains “Aunt Norika has helped me a lot, so I can have self confidence because I didn't used to believe in myself. Ever. She trusts me in everything. She trusts me with money. For example, when she pays for a piece of embroidery and the person is not there. She gives it to me, to give it to her. She trusts me. And this means a lot to me. A Gipsy is looked down upon, by everyone. Not trustworthy, like this… . And she trusts us! And this whole thing is based on trust.”
Nora L. R, Founder,