Ever since the founder of Loza Foundation, Sabina Grubbeson, visited the institution in Demir Kapija in North Macedonia in 2016 and revealed that the living conditions were much worse than most people could imagine, the aim has been crystal clear for Sabina: All the residents should have a reasonable life with good living conditions. Now, five years later, with the help of Loza Foundation, the first disabled people can move out to the newly-built group homes where they will be able to start a new life with better living conditions, in freedom, with dignity and even with respect for their personal integrity.
”Even if Loza, for the last few years, have done everything we can to improve the living conditions for everyone at the Demir Kapija Institution, it is still an unacceptable environment for people to live in. So the fact that some of the residents can now move into a real home is truly amazing and a result of the hard work the project team has put in”, says Sabina Grubbeson, Secretary-General, Loza Foundation.
Today, slightly less than 200 people live at the institution. Before this Loza Foundation project is finished, the plan is for all these residents to have moved out into group homes. The residencies are built according to a Swedish model; five to six residents per house and qualified support staff on hand. The plan is to build a further seven group homes in the next twelve months, and that another 35 people will be able to leave the institution during 2022.
”Everyone has the right to a home. Media has in the past described Demir Kapija as an institution of horror, and here, disabled people with a variety of physical and psychological needs have been kept under lock and key. Many of them ever since they were children.“
The project is run by the Loza Foundation through fundraising and grants from an EU-project working to help future member states meet human rights requirements.
“Thanks to Loza’s advocacy and lobbying local authorities, we have managed to make an impact not just locally, but centrally on an EU-level too. North Macedonia has passed new laws, e.g. the citizens have the right to personal assistance. We rely on fundraising and at the upcoming charity event at Varbergs Stadshotell on 6 December, we hope to raise even more money for this project and spread the information of how individuals and companies can help us give the Demir Kapija residents a better, more dignified life.“
Since the residents have spent most of their lives at the institution, many of them are in very poor health and need physical and mental rehabilitation when moving into their new homes.
“Many of them cannot remember a life outside the walls of the institution, so even when their situation actually improves, the change itself can be perceived as a trauma. Therefore, preparing the residents for the move has to start a long time before they physically swap the institutional dorms for a home of their own and carry on for quite some time in the new group home. We can already see that the transition will lead to other needs for support and we are working continuously to raise funds for these requirements too”, Sabina explains.
Sabina founded Loza Foundation because of what she witnessed in 2016 when she visited Demir Kapija for the first time. The photos and reports revealed violations of human rights. These violations had been allowed to carry on, right in the heart of Europe, without any aid organisations realising, without any of the local authorities sounding the alarm nor the EU noticing. Thanks to Loza’s publicity measures, Swedish newspaper ‘Göteborgsposten’ and Swedish television station ‘TV4’ covered the story, and these reports got a lot of attention.
“International aid organisations have called Demir Kapija institution one of the worst institutions in Europe. Several global organisations that work with children’s rights have been involved in moving minors out of institutions, but very few work with disabled individuals’ rights regardless of their age. Loza was founded as I wanted it to be a platform for humanitarian aid, specifically working with disabled people and other vulnerable individuals living in some of the poorest countries in Europe. Today, the organisation is mainly working in North Macedonia”, says Sabina.
Over the last two years, the corona pandemic has had a negative impact on the project. It has been very difficult to implement the changes and measure as fast as we had hoped to and many of the delays have been incredibly frustrating.
“Now we have finally reached the first milestone, and it was a great pleasure to be there when the first few people could move into their new home. That was the day I had been waiting for since founding Loza Foundation and the day the residents of Demir Kapija had been waiting for for most of their life”, says Sabina Grubbeson, Secretary-General, Loza Foundation.
This is the story of the first year of the Loza project ”Families in extreme poverty”. A project that has already changed the lives of 45 children and their parents who, through most of their lives, have had to live in extreme situations of poverty and have been excluded from the rest of the society.
Whilst working hard trying to help the poorest, most vulnerable people in Europe, Loza Foundation founder Sabina Grubbeson has found that the path out of poverty starts by taking care of one’s basic needs. Only once the primary living conditions have been addressed, a family can start their journey out of poverty. Based on this insight and the new 2019 resolution of the UN, which encourages investments supporting vulnerable families instead of orphanages and institutions, the Loza project “Families in extreme poverty” was set in motion.
The project, which is financed solely by Loza Foundation, is aimed at enabling the poorest families of Europe to get out of the complex situation that extreme poverty really is. The project provides the families with new knowledge and skills, crucial for improving their living standards. By also fulfilling certain terms such as schooling and work, the families are granted access to a social relief program that builds new homes for particularly vulnerable children and their parents, with heating, water, washing facilities, which in turn becomes the linchpin of their new lives.
RESULTS IN BRIEF – WITH LONG-TERM EFFECTS
During the first year of this project, the living conditions and everyday situations of 45 children and 15 adults improved dramatically:
Five out of the adult family members have secured paid employment.
Nine children have been registered at a school for the very first time, and four more will be registered as soon as their paperwork is finalised.
Another fifteen children, already registered at school, have been monitored to ensure they attend the lessons and have the relevant textbooks, stationery and clothing fit for school.
All 60 of them, both adults and children, have been given ongoing support and guidance with:
Information on health and hygiene
Registration at and continued contact with the jobcentre/employment agency
Registration at and contact with social services
Support with the children’s education
BASIC REQUISITES ARE CRUCIAL FOR ONE’S SUCCESS
Some fundamental requisites must be met for people to have a fighting chance to escape extreme poverty. A personal identification number, for example, is imperative; otherwise, you cannot attend school. Running water to take care of one’s hygiene. Basic knowledge of food and nutrition, so that the few pennies you scrape together are not spent on cookies and cheap soda. A roof over your head and enough food for the day, so that you have the energy to go to school or, if you are an adult, to look for work or go to work.
For many of the poorest people of Europe in socially disadvantaged areas, these kinds of basic requirements are very far from their everyday lives. During last year, thanks to their patrons and partners, Loza Foundation has managed to develop a project that helps families to start their journey out of extreme poverty.
Definition of extreme poverty:
Extreme poverty is a concept introduced by the World Bank Group (WBG) that means that you have less than 16 SEK per person per day to live on. That is to include everything such as food, clothes, accommodation, heating, hygiene, medicine, dental care etc. This is not a temporary condition, but stretches across an extended period of time, and it turns into a downward spiral impossible to get out of. The families with ten children or more, which have been included in the Loza Foundation project, have a buying power of 50 SEK a day, which means they have 5 SEK per person per day to spend. An impossible calculation that puts the entire family on the brink of starvation.
A PILOT TO GUIDE PEOPLE OUT OF POVERTY
The objective of the Loza Foundation’s pilot project ”Families in extreme poverty” is to help families in North Macedonia find a way out of extreme poverty. This will be done as a combination of aid and mentorship. The project, for instance, shows a way to structure social security systems for vulnerable, disadvantaged people and is evaluated regularly to prove effects and results. The project was started in August 2020 as a joint venture with a local organisation called Dendo Vas. It is based on the UN resolution of 2019 that unanimously encourages member states to phase out existing institutions for children and instead invest in support for socially disadvantaged families. This first year, the project has involved eight families with 45 children in total.
The efforts of the first 12 months of this project have resulted in 45 children and 15 adults have been given practical measures, help and knowledge, which will serve them and assist them on their path to a better life. The project is 100 percent funded by Loza Foundation, and the aid efforts are carried out together with a local team. Thanks to this project, more vulnerable children can avoid being separated from their families, and a foundation can be built for a socially sustainable future, far away from poverty. Thanks to this project, particularly disadvantaged children can grow up in a safe environment with their parents and siblings, and a foundation can be built for a socially sustainable future – far away from poverty.
TARGETED EFFORTS HAVE AN IMMEDIATE EFFECT
Over the past year, the project has worked actively with eight socially disadvantaged and impoverished families, where the focus has been to build a long-term solution for self-sufficiency and increased independence. As early as September 2020, the hard work and gifts bore fruit as the first family in the framework of the project, a blind woman and her teenage daughter, could leave their chaotic life behind. They had lived in a shed that kept on being flooded every time there was a downpour, and each day was all about finding food. Today, the little family lives in a secure, safe house with heating and the daughter can go to school. One aid effort that has had life-changing and lasting results.
A SUCCESSFUL COMBINATION OF MENTORSHIP AND AID
For many families suffering from extreme poverty, small earnings from begging can be crucial when it comes to putting food on the table. The project utilises a combination of aid and mentorship with an aim to help the families find a way of permanently escaping their current situation. The families are given basic knowledge needed for everyday life, which gradually helps them make better choices for themselves. They can build new lives and eventually, once and for all, get out of the complex situation that extreme poverty sadly is.
Definition of ”the poverty trap” – hand to mouth
A person that has to beg to scrape together 50 SEK over the course of a day and also has to provide for a family with ten children does not have the time to look for work, nor can they wait for their salary until the end of the month should they land such a job. Extreme poverty is all about surviving one hour at a time, one day at a time. When you do not have accommodation, cannot read, do not have enough clothes to stay warm and suffer from poor hygiene, you cannot go to work or school. With nothing but a couple of coins in your pocket, it is practically impossible to change your situation and you are caught in a trap, which is often called the poverty trap. The Loza Foundation project is aimed at helping families to get out of that trap.
EDUCATION, KNOW-HOW, INFORMATION, SUPPORT AND GUIDANCE
Managing household finances or planning one’s grocery purchases definitely does not come naturally to people who have grown up in poverty. A crucial part of the project is aimed at educating people about hygiene, household finances, the importance of schooling and work, as well as social rights and obligations. As a result of this educational program, the families are getting better at hygiene, organising their household and planning the family’s economy. They are more aware of rights and obligations and have been given a better understanding of how to look for work. In many of the families, the parents cannot read or write, which is a prerequisite to receiving help and being supported in their contact with authorities. The task team has been involved here too, providing their help and support.
A LONG-TERM APPROACH TO ENSURE A BRIGHTER FUTURE
The first year of this project can only be described as a success. The work has carried on according to plan, despite the ongoing pandemic and thanks to an amazing task team that is genuinely committed to taking on one of the toughest challenges we have today; to fight poverty and alienation.
As year two of this project “Families in extreme poverty” is now being mapped out, Loza is planning efforts to create safe living conditions and to give the remaining 50 people included in the project basic requirements for food and better health. The goal is to build well-functioning homes for a further five families. To be able to do all this, Loza Foundation is starting up joint ventures where companies are invited to take part and build houses for the poorest children of Europe, and by doing that, they contribute to the Global Goals of the UN for sustainable development. We will primarily focus on goal no. 1 “No poverty” and goal no. 10 “Reduced inequalities”. There will be continued support for the families that have been with us from the start, but the hope is that these families will gradually become more and more independent so that Loza Foundation can phase in families in need into this project and help even more people out of extreme poverty.
Out of the seventeen UN Global Goals within the framework of Agenda 2030, number one aims to abolish extreme poverty once and for all. The abolishment of poverty is a requisite for a sustainable future for generations to come, which is why we all, jointly and globally, have to work hard to achieve this by 2030. Poverty is so much more than just a lack of money. It is also poor health, lack of education and empowerment, directly and indirectly linked to other goals such as goal no. 2 “Zero hunger”, goal no. 3 “Good health and well-being”, goal no. 4 “Quality education” and so on. The watchwords of these Global Goals are “Leave no one behind” and pledge to work for a society where no one is left behind. Read more about the Global Goals of the UN here.
TO HIGHLIGHT WHAT NO ONE WANTS TO SEE
Loza Foundation is determined to continue its work by involving the state and towns in North Macedonia even more and creating a project platform for a more overall, holistic approach. The long-term goal is to implement this kind of project in more towns and cities in North Macedonia, as well as to include other countries such as Kosovo, Bosnia and Moldavia, which according to the UN Human Development Index, are the poorest countries of Europe.
EVERYONE HAS A RIGHT TO HAVE A HOME
The right to have a home, or actually the lack of it, is not just about poverty. It is also about lack of freedom, influence, health, education and safety, which are also parameters defined in the UN Global Goals in the framework of Agenda 2030; No. 1 “No poverty”
Supporting development in accordance with the Global Goals of the UN is something that is highly prioritised within conscientious companies and on their agenda of corporate social responsibility. By working together with Loza Foundation, companies and individuals can contribute to and get involved in direct aid efforts without any middlemen, providing results and changing the lives of some of the poorest, most vulnerable people in Europe.
“It goes without saying that the children of this world are our future, and they are most vulnerable during their childhood years. It should also go without saying that no child should have to live in extreme poverty and deprivation”, says Sabina Grubbeson, Secretary-General, Loza Foundation.
Rättshaveri att papperslösa barn i Nordmakedonien nekas skolgång, det strider mot Barnkonventionens artikel 28. Loza Foundation kämpar för att lokala myndigheter ska agera, läs pressmeddelandet här: