In Hungary, the social and economic structure has been weakened in recent years. Children born in the poorest regions of the country suffer the most from its effects. Roma children especially are segregated without much hope of being able to break out of their situation. Families live in poverty, homes are without running water, adequate heating or bathrooms. Unemployment is so high that the parents can not provide for their children the care, tuition and support they need to become useful citizens of society. Because of the circumstances, the children are not motivated to strive for a better life, to achieve higher goals than their parents did. The growing Roma community is a time-bomb in Hungary, and consequently in Europe as well. In response, the government takes custody of the most abused children, and a growing number ends up in foster care and governmental institutes in the countryside, as well as in Budapest.
The Love is the Answer Non-profit Association was approached in 2009 by representatives of Inter Campus, which is responsible for the social projects of F.C. Internazionale, the Italian football team. The concept was to search for the neediest, most segregated and forsaken boys and girls between the ages of 6-14. The idea was not to seek for talents, but to offer a chance for life through participating in free, high quality football training, while receiving opportunities of growth in their social, physical, emotional and scholastic skills.
Using football as a tool to reach the hearts of these less fortunate children is instrumental in changing their outlook for life. Currently we have a total of 120 children partaking of our program. They all come from large families with 5-8 children, 95% are Roma. These boys and girls come from deep poverty, and 40% of them are orphans. Our priority is to educate these underprivileged children through football that encourages team-working, influences their physical and emotional development, improves their communication skills, and relations with their peers and families. It also effects their behavior in school, giving them equal opportunity and a chance for a better life. The Inter Campus program helps them to rise above their segregated backgrounds and twisted values.
The Love is the Answer Association has been already working with government custody and orphan children at the Budapest, Cseppkő utcai Childrenʼs Home. In 2009 the first Inter Campus Hungary was officially opened at this institute, where 105 children live under state custody. The weekly football trainings had major affects in the participating 40 kidsʼ lives. In 2011 October we opened our second Inter Campus Hungary project for 60 Roma children in Szendrőlád, where we had been already doing social work alongside the NeverGiveUp Foundation. In 2012 August, we were able to expand the program with 20 more younger kids, reaching a total of 120 participating children.
Twice a year the official trainers of Inter Campus from Milano come and visit the children, providing them with professional football training and kits. During their visit they educate the local coaches, and pass on instructions how to continue training the kids. The regular weekly trainings that follow are all about installing the values of self-discipline, team-working, caring about others. An important incentive for the players is that they have to improve in their scholastics and regularly attend school, in order to be eligible for the program. Skipping school has been an ongoing problem with the Roma, as well as the orphan children. A reward such as attending our Summer Camps has been an enormous motivator.
The project involves volunteers from all over the country. Since opening our second Inter Campus location in Szendrőlád in October 2011, our work has gotten considerable media attention, subsequently a number of young people expressed their desire to help by volunteering their time and resources. One such example is Vágási Zoltán, a Roma football referee. He shared his life story with the children, how he was born to a family with 11 kids in extreme poor conditions, and fought his way to become a recognized referee. He has been a referee for 16 years, and offered his help to lead our games.
Seeing the immense poverty and need that these children face in their daily lives, we are compelled to strive to expand the program to the neighboring settlements, where the need is great. We would like to be able to say yes to all those, that would like to participate, and organize similar projects in 6 more villages, where our other programs are running. For this we need the help of good-hearted individuals, that are willing, and able to donate the needed equipment, such as footballs, shoes, kits, tracksuits, jackets, etc.
We are planning to create a network, where we can host Football Tournaments amongst the different football initiatives, thus visiting each otherʼs homes, the children learn about one anotherʼs customs and cultural backgrounds. The motivating factor of belonging to a team such as Inter and the Love is the Answer Football Fun, within their own village and circumstances - lifts up these poverty stricken, hopeless Roma and orphan children, in their everyday struggle of overcoming their segregated, disadvantaged backgrounds.