Dilga, Romania is a settlement of 2,500 people with dirt roads, no running water and an unemployment rate of 70%. Most of the working-age men and women have worked abroad, mostly in Italy or Great Britain, as many say they are unable to find adequate work in Romania. During the communist years, most worked in nearby state-run factories and agricultural cooperatives, though the majority of these went bankrupt after 1989 and the local Roma lost their jobs. Since then, they have struggled to make ends meet and find a better future for their children, though projects initiated by the European Union and NGOs are helping some to launch small-scale enterprises and improve their children's education.
In this photograph, schoolchildren, most of them ethnic Roma, have a hot lunch before afternoon activities that will include assisted homework in an after-school program sponsored by the European Commission in Dilga. The program, called the Roma Education Fund, is aimed at bridging the educational gap between Roma and non-Roma across Europe.
All photographs taken in Dilga, Romania, March 11, 2013
Ethnic Roma Mioara Costea finishes milking one of her cows. Mioara and her husband Costel, with their approximately one dozen cows, plus turkeys, geese and chickens, are comparatively wealthy, and Costel attributes their success to his decision not to sell the ten hectares of land restituted to him after the fall of the Romanian communist government in 1989.
Marius Tanase, an ethnic Roma, and his daughter Denisa, 6, take a break while planting onions in their vegetable garden outside their home.
Ethnic Roma Mirela Tudor and three of her five children stand outside the new house her partner, Mitica Tenase, built. Mitica worked in Manchester in Great Britain at a metals recycling company and now works in construction in Romania.
Ethnic Roma Tudora Tanase pauses while walking down a dirt road in Dilga. Tudora works as a cleaning woman at a university in Bucharest, which is a two-hour train commute away.
Viorica Gheorghe, who is an ethnic Roma, holds her daughter Gabriela, 3, while she leads a visitor to her home. Viorica's husband works in Bucharest, a two-hour train commute away, and the couple, their two children and his mother survive on his salary of EUR 200 a month.
Ethnic Roma Xenia Costea (R), her father (L) and other members of her family stand outside the small grocery shop she runs. Xenia says hers is one of six small shops in Dilga and that many of her customers buy on credit.
Madelina, 10, an ethnic Roma, does her English homework in the living room of her grandparents house where she lives. Madelina's mother, as well as both of her uncles, live and work in Italy, send money to their parents and only come to Dilga once a year to visit.
A lunch of fried fish and mamaliga, a traditional Romanian dish made from cornmeal, awaits a visitor outside the home of Aneta and Constantin Enache, both ethnic Roma. The couple's three children all live and work in Italy, send money home and only come to Dilga once a year to visit, while their grandaughter Madelina lives with them in Dilga.
Ethnic Roma Mioara Costea stands among her calves on her farm.
Ethnic Roma Vasile and Valentina Ilie watch as a local veterinarian arrives to administer medicine to one of the couple's two horses that is suffering from an intestinal parasite. The couple farm a small plot of land nearby and use their horses for pulling a wagon to transport goods.
Schoolchildren, many of them ethnic Roma, arrive for school.
Ethnic Roma, including Viorica Gheorghe (R) and her daughter Gabriela, 3, stand outside the Gheorghe home. Viorica's husband works in Bucharest, a two-hour train commute away, and the couple, their two children and his mother survive on his salary of EUR 200 a month.
Ethnic Roma Serghei Percu, 22, delivers firewood to local elderly Roma resident Aurica Boboaca. Serghei and his brother Victor buy the wood from a local company, then chop it up into firewood and deliver it at a small profit. They operate their enterprise as a business initiated by the Romania office of the Soros Center, the NGO of billionaire investor George Soros, that is supporting small enterprise projects among the rural poor across Romania.
Ethnic Roma children chat on one of the residential streets after sundown.