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European Social Fund Plus

Commissioner Schmit visits ESF-funded projects in Romania supporting refugees from Ukraine

Commissioner Schmit visiting Concordia
(c) European Union

Today, European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit visited a Concordia Vocational School, co-funded by the European Social Fund (ESF). A humanitarian non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Concordia has 30 years of history supporting children, young people and families in need to move toward a more independent life, and is currently supporting refugees fleeing from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  Since the beginning of March, nearly 300 persons received help with hot meals, hygienic products and accommodation in the premises of Concordia in its headquarters in Ploesti and in Bucharest.    

This visit of the Commissioner highlighted the critical challenges and the solutions that can be found through collaboration between public, private and charitable partnerships. Two of the ESF-fundedprojects welcomed the Commissioner on his visit to the country. 

‘First room - a chance for young people’s future’

A Bucharest-based project, ‘First Room’ supports the social integration of children and young people who have recently been under state protection systems. Thanks to EU funding and the training and counselling services provided by Concordia, 126 young people who grew up in such institutions have the tools to successfully transition to independent adult life.  The Vocational School provides certification of their competences, as well as employment and job orientation. The integrated services include also support for young people who exited the system by renting housing and available rooms within the Concordia transit centre.

‘Wings4youth’

Working through locations in Romania and Bulgaria, Wings4youth is developing a holistic, multi-sectoral approach for helping young people facing the difficult transition to adulthood from an early life in protective care. The project has also involved children and young people from Romania and Bulgaria in activities to learn from their experience and reflection, building a curriculum and guidance materials to increase the project’s impact.  By raising awareness of best practices between colleagues, Wings4youth has expanded the influence, capacity and expertise of training and care professionals, enabling them to pass on their knowledge to other service providers.  The project therefore empowers not only project participants, but also professionals that help young people in transition.

The achievements of the project already have impact in both Romania and Bulgaria, and thanks to Concordia’s membership in Eurochild, and other networks, they are promoted across Europe.  

Commissioner Schmit stated, 'We need to support vocational education, like here at the Concordia campus, and social businesses, to value everybody in society. By helping young people become qualified cooks, carpenters or farmers, Concordia enables them to enter the labour market and integrate into society. This project model could be replicated throughout the EU'.

The importance of NGOs

Often, NGOs have strategic expertise to map the real needs of vulnerable groups. The European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) will continue to support NGOs to play an important role in tackling the challenges of homelessness, child poverty, and inclusion of vulnerable adults and children – both in Romania and across the EU.

The visit also highlighted that projects such as these are extremely important. Children can be overlooked as they ‘age out’ of protective services, and young adults may be left behind when preparing to enter society. The European Child Guarantee provides the strategic context for continuous support. The national action plan of Romania for the implementation of the Child Guarantee will be adjusted to cater for the large numbers of Ukrainian children entering Romania due to the war in Ukraine. Commissioner Schmit’s visit highlighted the collaboration between the European Commission and the Romanian government for achieving these objectives, and the role of the civil society organisations in caring for children.

Testimonials

These videos share the positive impact the school had on the lives of two students who grew up in Concordia projects.