By Abby Hopkins
In Slovakia, the Roma are a minority known for living in poverty. Education barriers create challenges for individuals to finish school and break the cycles of poverty.
Roma Health & Hunger, a Texas Baptist Hunger Offering partner, is meeting this need by providing resources within the education system. From mothers to their children, the work of this ministry is helping Roma families succeed and thrive.
Hunger Offering funds are specifically used for higher education scholarship funds as well as for lunches and snacks for a preschool program. This ministry unites the body of Christ to meet the needs of Roma people and display the glory of God.
Roma Health & Hunger provides scholarships to Roma women who wish to continue their education. In the Slovak system, anyone wanting to go back to school must pay large fees to do so. This prevents many who are unable to afford the fee from pursuing the opportunity.
The scholarship program allows women to return to trade school or university-level studies to eventually attain a higher-paying job, which will allow them to further provide for their families.
Shane McNary, who runs Roma Health & Hunger with his wife, Dianne, said a woman receiving an education impacts her whole family, not only financially, but also because she is able to set an example in her studies.
“If you help a male, you help an individual,” Shane said. “If you help a female, you’re going to impact an entire family.”
For example, one woman now attends business college through scholarship funds. Since receiving assistance, her mom has joined a local Bible study and attends regularly.
Sixty percent of the world’s hungry are women, so programs like the scholarship funds that break the cycles of poverty in women’s lives are crucial. The Texas Baptist Hunger Offering holds a special giving day on Mother’s Day (May 12) to empower these women and for donors to honor those who have impacted their own lives. Click here for more information.
Funds also go toward the Jekh Drom Children's Club at Samuel Center preschool. When the program began eight years ago, it focused on providing lunches to kids at the local public school, which the government now provides.
Now, it focuses on running a program for the children and providing lunches each day for 15 students as well as snacks during an afterschool program for however many kids show up.
Shane said the preschool children and after school program have seen exciting results.
“Now (the children) have a place to do their homework, and they’re thrilled they get good grades on tests now,” Shane said. “A piece of that is the healthy snack they get at Samuel Center.”
When the McNarys first arrived in Slovakia, they wanted to provide assistance but quickly learned the best way to begin was to build relationships, Shane said. This realization allowed the McNarys to shift their perspective.
“Instead of coming into a community and immediately seeing needs, if we don’t come in first and see people, we’re getting off on the wrong foot,” he said. “From that position you can provide assistance in a way that honors their strength instead of taking away the strength they do have.”
Shane said he has also seen God working in details and bringing everything together for the bigger picture.
“This is God at work, not through only me, not through only Hunger (Offering) funds, it’s all of us together reflecting the image of God,” Shane said. “That’s what makes my job so cool. I can never give testimony to all the things I’ve seen God do.”
The McNarys will occasionally take trips back to Texas and speak at churches. Shane said every time they do, they thank Hunger Offering donors.
“We realize that (the Hunger Offering) is the source for not only our ministry, but also what it does nationally and internationally,” Shane said. “We’re thankful for you all.”