Community development, Human rights

Ambassadors now!

Bridging parallel societies - inclusion of Roma community into the Slovenian healthcare system in COVID-19 times


Who is behind this?

Mihaela Lovše

Slovenian Coalition for Public Health, Environment and Tobacco Control (SCTC)


Who is joining forces?

Romsko društvo Romano Pralipe - Roma society Romano Pralipe


Društvo za podporo mladim Romom - Society for support of Roma youths (DPMR)


The municipality of Maribor


Health Promotion Center Maribor (CKZ) .


Idea pitch

All Slovenian inhabitants have the right to access public healthcare services, but do they? Even in a time of a pandemic?

Cultural and linguistic barriers are the real-life Roma people face every day. Mistrust and a different language prevent them from seeing a doctor or even having basic health insurance.

We want to empower trusted Roma representatives with correct information about the access to public healthcare services and about healthy lifestyle. Especially now in this pandemic!

Where will your project idea take place?

Maribor, Slovenia

What is the specific societal challenge faced by this region?

Our project focuses on the exclusion of Roma peoples from the public healthcare system in Maribor. What does that mean?

A divergent cultural, ethnic and linguistic group, they have deep misgivings about the rest of Slovenian inhabitants.

As a result, they are an isolated, detached community, suspicious of non-Roma people. Sadly, the cost of this cultural, historic, linguistic and psychological segregation is also poor health. They do not use public healthcare services as often as they should, and are sceptical of medical personnel. Some feel shame about visiting a doctor and worry that contact with public services will put themselves or their loved ones in trouble (residency documents).

Who are you doing it for?

We are doing this for Roma communities in Maribor. Why?

Slovenian Roma communities bear alarming and disturbing health statistics. On average, they die whole 22 years before the rest of Slovenian inhabitants.

The premature mortality rate is 69%, compared to 19% of the general population.
Premature mortality is often linked to preventable causes, such as health illiteracy, insufficient use of existing healthcare prevention services and unhealthy lifestyle. Multigenerational unemployment, inadequate housing and low literacy are common and persistent.

None of this can get better in a pandemic.

How do you plan to get there?

We engage with the municipality of Maribor and Roma societies (Romano Pralipe and Society for support of Roma youths). We inform them of the project and that Roma representatives are sought.

Roma societies and the municipality of Maribor inform Roma communities in Maribor about the project, the role of the ambassadors and the services they will offer.

10 Roma ambassadors are chosen by the local Roma communities themselves. The ambassadors speak both Slovenian and of course the Roma language.

Our organisation and Health Promotion Center Maribor engage with the ambassadors. Both organisations hold meetings in Slovenian language where they prepare the ambassadors for the role they will hold in the Roma communities and the services they will offer. The ambassadors acquire all needed information about accessing Slovenian public healthcare services. They also expand their understanding of healthy lifestyle.

Step 4 - ACTION!
Ambassadors work “in the field” - they offer assistance and translation services to a Roma person seeing a doctor. Positive experience secures positive word of mouth. The opinion of a fellow Roma person is the most trusted source of information to them. They also educate local Roma peoples about easy and practical steps to live a more healthy life.

What are the expected results?

Visiting a doctor can affect a person's health only in a positive way. Isn’t this the best long-term effect for a human being? We believe that each visit to a doctor means a little more progress for the Roma community. Roma people will use public healthcare services more.

They will gain trust and develop relationships with public healthcare services. They will gain a perspective on how they could live an improved healthy life.

As a community, they will be healthier, less isolated and less excluded. Maribor as a whole will be more cohesive, less divided, and of course, healthier.

How does your idea strengthen active citizenship at a local and community level?

How does our idea strengthen active Roma citizenship? How does our idea give them agency? Maribor Roma people themselves will decide and voice who Roma ambassadors will be. Maribor Roma people themselves will determine who they trust to represent them, bring into the community the project information, whose translation skills they trust and who will accompany a Roma person to see a doctor.

Maribor Roma communities will be given agency in their own healthcare matters. It will be up to them to decide who the bridge between our local parallel societies will be.

This is how Roma peoples engage at a local level, this is how the project will improve their quality of life and this is how it will give them a voice in the decision-making and implementation process.

Why is this idea important to you?

Our organisation has worked with local Roma peoples for more than 10 years. For them, we have organised smoking cessation counselling, health promotion workshops and youth camps. And what have we noticed?

We have witnessed a widespread lack of health insurance, persistent avoidance of public healthcare services and unhealthy lifestyle. That's why Ambassadors now! is important to us.

The team will be:
Maja Lovše, a professor, the project manager.
Neža Polh, a social worker, will be in charge of project implementation.
Mihaela Lovše, a registered nurse.
Dragana Mitrović, MBA.

All 4 have years of experience working with Roma population. All 4 will tutor and instruct Roma Ambassadors about access to public health services and healthy lifestyle.

€ 35000,-

Total budget

€ 35000,-

Funding requested from Civic Europe

Major expenses

Roma Ambassadors: 9500 EUR
SCTC: 18000 EUR
Partners: 3500 EUR
Office expenses: 2000 EUR
Social Media Promotion: 2000 EUR

Local authorities and local public services not included.

What do you need from the Civic Europe community?

We would greatly appreciate any advice, comments and feedback from others on the platform. We think that our idea is new, easily done and the results will be easily achieved.



Miša Lovše

Idea created on April 19, 2021
Last edit on April 26, 2021

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