BAGázs Public Benefit Association
Country/Town: Hungary, Bag
Topic: Organic agriculture & Farming & Financial education

Debt Free

Lifestyle

Why?

“The responsibility of the majority is to get rid of stereotypes and to practice integration actively. The responsibility of the minority is to work on one’s own development and to stand up for the community.” (BAGázs team)

BAGázs was created by an enthusiastic, devoted group of young people who started working together in the summer of 2010 sharing the same belief that local and regular involvement is needed in order to ease social differences.

The aim

BAGázs Association tackles the problems of Roma living in Bag (a small town near Budapest) in a versatile, long-term, equal relationship with its beneficiaries. Its many projects aim to help Roma people formulate a vision and take the steps necessary to achieve them – while influencing the majority society to be a support instead of an obstacle for these dreams. Mobilizing 80 volunteers each year and employing several Roma from the Roma village, BAGázs also connects Roma and non-Roma in an everyday context. This is how, together with ERSTE, they created an umbrella project for income generation which shelters vegetable gardens and poultry and pig farming for training, nutrition and revenue, as well as debt reconciliation with utility companies, combined with legal support and financial mentoring, for a new start without debts.

Working with and for the people within the Roma settlement of Bag for the past five years, BAGázs became the provider of care, attention and sustainable plans. They represent a clear statement: donating money, food or clothes without further social involvement may not be the best thing for helping Roma communities.

Project

Timeline

Preparations for launching a social enterprise in agriculture by the roma community in Bag: The goal of the project was to help families in the Roma community to meet some of their basic needs. Bag started to host preparatory training for financial, legal and business models. Field trips were organized where people created a detailed business and action plan and started land cultivation Evolving kitchen gardens, growing vegetables on family plots. This is a programme every family can participate in by meeting minimum conditions (preparation of the soil, provide fences, appearing at meetings)

The plan for a social farming business continues: involving crop-growing and stock-keeping.

Legal Clinic and Debt Management: a complex and multidimensional project, in which volunteers (mainly law students) are working shoulder to shoulder with inhabitants of the settlement in an effort to escape the debt spiral and related legal problems. Through combining legal, pedagogical, psychological and sociological perspectives and dealing with with three different types of problems (personal credit debts, environmental load fee and electricity debts), the Debt Management Program meant a takeover of debts, installation of prepayment electricity meters and development of measurement spots in Bag. At the end, 14 families received prepayment electricity meters which soon improved their financial security.

Debt Management Programme expands in Dány, another village from Hungary, facing the same problems within their Roma community. Also, a debt management group composed of trainers and mentors starts its activity in Bag and Dány. This led to more prepayment electricity meters being installed and the debt management group now focuses on each family who received them to find solution to the debt trap.

Achievements

A real success story was written by those 14 families which received prepayment electricity meters in 2016. In the following six months after the installation, they filled their meters with electricity worthy of almost 500,000HUF. The electrical service provider already expressed their desire to continue its support for the project;

The same 14 families repaid about 300,000HUF from their debts;

Winning the Green Dependent Association and E.On contest about green energy consumption and decreasing of ecological footprints. The families from Bag who received prepayment electricity meters in 2016 took part in the contest together with the goal to decrease their energy consumption and lead more environmentally friendly life. ” Our energy coordinators lead the group, and they won with 27% of energy decrease. ” (BAGázs team)

Since BAGázs started, an increase is seen in the number of people attending schools, who are able to take care of themselves and the number of those employed;

BAGázs Association contributed to a decrease in the illiteracy rate, the crime rate and the rate of debts.

BAGázs took part in the following inter-professional meetings and conferences:
● ERSTE LEAPs-Learning Exchange Activation Platform: 21-24 June in Budapest,
● CIMULACT – Citizen and Multi-actor consultation on Horizon2020: 1th October;
● Energiaközösségek training: 21 October, Budapest;
● Védegylet consultation: Small communities changing: September-December 2016;
● Eco Motive consulation on cooperation: September – December 2016.

Challenges

Costs

Decreased costs and generated income for Roma families

Employment

Chance of employment based on skills acquired in the project

Role models

New role models for the people in the village

Perception

Changed perception of non-Roma (both in and outside of Bag)

Extra

content available in local language

Social enterprise in Bag

Allotment Programme 2 – Tomatoes are even more red

The pigs are already grunting

There’s something cooking in Bag

Morgan Stanley volunteers at BAGázs’

Cackle at the settlement – the chickens have arrived

When the pig business grows fast

Youtube

Media

Bagi Hírlap 2015

Szabad Föld

Bagi Hírlap 2016