Pearl’s activities in this district are vitally important as there is a high unemployment rate, lack of infrastructure and no service industry which might provide jobs to locals. Families here live in deep poverty and are locked in a vicious cycle faced with no economic opportunities combined with low education and skill levels. Some are involved in low paid public work programmes run by the government but the majority of adults are in long term unemployment. There are grandmothers and grandfathers in families who have never been employed during their lives.
Children coming from these poor families and segregated areas have extremely limited opportunities to receive quality education let alone any future social mobility. The Foundation began working with Pearl in 2014 supporting an agricultural social enterprise where the community grew medical plants and collected wild herbs. Integrating the experiences from this project and developing the concept, Pearl has developed a food processing social enterprise where the members of the local community will produce jam, vegetable chips and other food products for sale. The Foundation is supporting the social enterprise through a grant where part will be used towards renovating a building, the kitchen factory, and part as a contribution towards professional consultancy to lead the project.
Based on local jam making traditions retained within the community and supplemented with their own research, Pearl has started to produce jam made from rose-hip and sloe berries foraged locally. Volunteers involved in the project over the past year have been testing different methods of processing berries and producing jams.
Pearl has taken a holistic approach to improve the opportunities for Roma living in poverty and this follows three intervention strands. Firstly, education programmes which include individualized after-school activities and scholarship programmes for children. Secondly, family support and community building programmes which cover crisis intervention, job creation, citizenship education and empowerment. Thirdly, Pearl focuses on how their model is working by recording the adaptable elements and sharing good practices and cooperating with other institutions so that collectively there is a group nationally with the same aim of alleviating poverty.
Working in conjunction with Pearl’s art project, this social enterprise has created and developed a brand name called Amari Food. There is an attractive packaging and design to market the brand: “Amari will become a brand of hand-made products made of natural materials with authentic tastes providing employment opportunities for local people building on local characteristics.”