Innovative Approaches to Integration and Development: A Case Study in Assisting the Roma (Gypsy) Population in Bulgaria

Wednesday, November 1, 2017
Marshall D. Shulman Seminar Room (1219 International Affairs Building)

Please join us for a talk with Sarah Perrine, CEO of Trust for Social Achievement.

The Roma, one of Europe’s largest trans-national minority groups, continue to experience high rates of unemployment and social isolation. Access to quality education and entrenched prejudice limit opportunities for Roma development and inclusion. Sarah Perrine will present case studies from the field to describe how her foundation is applying innovative approaches to a centuries-old challenge in legalizing squatter neighborhoods, improving access to education, and providing individualized pre-natal care for the Roma population in Bulgaria.

Sarah Perrine established the Trust for Social Achievement to help overcome achievement gaps between the Roma minority and mainstream populations. To do this, her organization emphasizes the need to accurately assess impact and demonstrate progress, so as to build confidence that change is possible. By collaborating with more than fifty local partners and organizations throughout Bulgaria, her organization is impacting tens of thousands of children and youth in more than 200 schools and 200 kindergartens.

This month, she will travel to UN Headquarters in New York to receive a “Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements” award for outstanding contribution for her groundbreaking work to legalize Roma squatter neighborhoods. Her organization has also collaborated with the World Bank on the first national, randomized control trial impact evaluation in Bulgaria, which assessed parental incentives for sending children to kindergarten. It is also piloting a program lauded for its evidence-based approach—the Nurse Family Partnership programwhich assists teenage mothers.

Sarah’s engagement with Bulgaria started in 1999, when she served as a teacher with the U.S Peace Corps. In 2002, she returned as a Fulbright Fellow to conduct more specialized research on leadership trends and policies to promote social inclusion, an experience that helped cement a lasting engagement with Bulgaria’s Roma community.

Since that time, she has acquired professional experience in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors, including work with the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of State. In 2009, she returned to Bulgaria to serve as Director of Programs for the Economically Disadvantaged at the America for Bulgaria Foundation (ABF). In collaboration with ABF, she launched the Trust for Social Achievement in 2012.