I consider that community education is one of the key factors that make the work of any community development organization sustainable.
Because of that, and because the Habitat Oarja Neighborhood was growing fast, I initiated a project focused to establish on-going community education about creating a family budget, establishing credit, understanding tax issues, and being a first time homeowner.
In addition, we were helping residents of the community of Habitat Oarja Neighborhood to establish a homeowners association and this project was providing a series of free educational classes on the legal responsibilities, community development benefits and opportunities of being part of a homeowners association, as well as community leadership education.
The materials and resources created through this project have acted as a foundation for future education courses, have enhanced social capital and community resources, and have empowered citizens to participate and have a stronger voice in local decision-making.
In Romania, there is a strong need for educational classes, such as creating a family budget, establishing credit, and being a first time homeowner. Without first time homeowner education, understanding credit and mortgage payments, taxes, and developing finance/budgeting skills, families have a much higher likelihood of foreclosing on their first home.
There was also a specific educational need in the community of Oarja, Arges County. The members of the community of Oarja, with the assistance of Habitat for Humanity Pitesti, have identified a need to create a homeowners association. Many of the community members in Oarja had no access to clean, running water. The homeowners association was necessary to work with the city government to establish and maintain a clean water supply and has also been critical for future road improvement projects and landscaping maintenance.
However, many of the community members of Oarja were unaware of the legal responsibilities and community development benefits and opportunities of being a part of a homeowners association. In addition, in order to establish a sustainable and successful community organization, community members were in need of leadership development and consensus-building skills. Finally, there was a need to break down barriers and increase collaboration with local government and other organizations and agencies. It was an opportunity for Habitat for Humanity Pitesti to increase its resources, efficiency, and effectiveness, through collaboration.
Education is a critical, but underfunded component of Habitat for Humanity’s effort to build sustainable communities and work to break the cycle of poverty. Working with residents to create a homeowners association was an important step towards improving the quality of life for families in this community.
Long-term goals for the project:
- Provide high-quality, sustainable, community and economic development education (homeowner and leadership training) in the community;
- Provide on-going support for Oarja’s homeowners association, helping the community to understand local needs, develop leadership skills, build teamwork, and participate in local decision-making;
- Strengthen local partnerships with other non-profits, community organizations, and government agencies.
- Establish a legal homeowners association in the community of Oarja.
- Provide two free educational workshops for community members, specifically focusing on legal issues and opportunities of being a part of a homeowners association and community leadership;
- Develop high quality educational materials that will serve as a foundation for on-going community education;
- Complete four free educational workshops focusing on creating a family budget, establishing credit, understanding taxes and loans, and being a first time homeowner;
- Strengthen local partnerships with other non-profits, community organizations, and government agencies by involving them in this project and sharing resources.
The immediate project beneficiaries included approximately 15 community members that actively had been involved in the creation of the educational materials and in the creation of the homeowners association. In addition, there had been an estimated 450 beneficiaries who benefited through participating or having a family member participate in the initial education classes. However, the long-term benefits of the project could potentially benefit families throughout Pitesti (185,000 people), Mioveni (25,000 people), Oarja (5,000 people), Stefanesti (5,000 people), as well as many additional people throughout Arges County.
This project enhanced the assets of communities in Arges County by providing on-going homeownership education and leadership training.
The project included a series of four homeowner education classes, which were focused on family budget, taxes, credit, loans etc. There was also a separate series of classes that were specifically designed for residents of Oarja community. These classes explained the legal and administrative aspects of establishing a homeowners association, the community benefits, and developed leadership and consensus-building skills.
The benefits of the project were sustainable because of the focus on education. The skills and knowledge that were transferred had on-going benefits for community members. In addition, through the establishment of a future active homeowners association, this project contributed to sustainable community development by enhancing community networks, linkages, and local decision-making.
The materials and resources that were developed through this project can be used again for additional training and community education projects and the resources can be shared with other local organizations. Finally, this project helped to establish and strengthen partnerships with local government and other organizations and agencies.