A home is more than just a place to put a roof over your head. Eva, a Slovakian woman who grew up in an orphanage, lives in a home for young women in the city of Valaská. The woman on the autistic spectrum has a job in a laundry there. A very special one: she is part of the WASCO project. This is a social initiative to support disadvantaged people in Valaská. "Here I learned how to handle the laundry properly and how to communicate better with other people. That is a great beginning for any of my future employments." Eva has become a professional ironer - where her attention to detail comes in handy.
The WASCO project is one of many supported by the international organization Habitat for Humanity in the construction of social centers and low-cost housing. WASCO and Habitat for Humanity are planning a major project in Valaská. Over the next few years, some 10,000 square meters of living space will be renovated or built.
Making a home a reality
Affordable housing is rare, and disadvantaged people have a hard time finding it. This is the case in the village of 3,400 inhabitants in the New Tatra Mountains. Tourists, hikers and skiers appreciate this natural paradise. But there are fewer and fewer jobs here. Many residents are looking for new opportunities elsewhere.
This is where Habitat for Humanity comes in. With its WASCO* project, it is committed to providing more affordable housing. But it is not only a stable roof over their heads that many of the residents lack. For them, it is just as important that the buildings keep their heating and electricity costs as low as possible in the long term, thanks to a high level of energy efficiency. Xella is a committed supporter of Habitat for Humanity and the Opportunity Center Valaská (OCV) project. It is a successful example of how committed citizens, an NGO and a company can work together to create an ecosystem that helps improve the lives of many people.
The people who work at the Social Center have achieved a great deal since 1999. Their goal was ambitious: contribute to the local development of a multicultural society that would integrate marginalized people. There were, and still are, many of them in Valaská: single mothers, the long-term unemployed, people with disabilities, the Roma community and other socially disadvantaged groups. The project has not only developed more than 60 local education and employment projects, trained 1,660 people and created 400 jobs. It also now provides social services within a 50 km radius. Other organizations and government agencies in Slovakia have long used OCV's experience for their own projects.
Sustainability pays off
OCV's existing building is getting on in years. Not only is a new roof urgently needed. Over the next three years, the laundry room, canteen and administrative offices will also need to be renovated and modernized. Insulation, partition walls, flooring, electricity, plumbing, doors/windows, tiles, plastering, painting, equipment and furniture - a huge task for the small OCV team.
That is why Xella, together with other product donors, is providing the necessary building materials. But Valaská is not only about the long-term preservation of existing buildings. In 2024, 21 social housing units for small families will be built.
For Habitat for Humanity, a sustainable, CO2-saving approach is important. In Valaská, this means converting unused industrial and commercial buildings wherever possible. "Ensuring that affordable housing and sustainability are compatible is critical and efforts to address climate change must ensure that the poorest, who are already most affected by both climate change and insufficiency, are not burdened with solutions leading to even more unaffordable housing. These challenges are global and require a broad commitment to fight poverty and ensure adequate, sustainable housing as a human right. ", says Sascha Meyer, Head of Corporate Cooperation at Habitat for Humanity Germany.