Salm (pictured above) explained that a fully equipped center offers seven services: washing facilities, health checks, a kindergarten and playground, tutoring for children, counseling for mothers, apprenticeships, and a music school or other cultural endeavor.
One of the biggest obstacles to improving the wellbeing of the Roma is that parents take their children out of school in order to work. Salm believes that the Order of Malta has found a way of overcoming this problem that could serve as a model across Europe.
"Our donors ask: 'How do you measure the success of your work?' And it's always the same: the children have more self-esteem, are clean and friendly -- because that's what we teach them every day -- and, finally, much better in school."
Salm cites a school run by the order in Romania.
"This school was within the last rank of all the schools in this district. And after four or five years, it went better and better. And now, seven years later, this school is in the upper third, far above the average. No kid in the last two years failed the class," he said.
"And in our center, we could really come to the point where no kid misses the school. Of course, because they want to come to us."
On Aug. 29, Salm will open the order's 19th center for Roma people, in Croatia.
"The hardest part is to convince the mayors of the area that this work is necessary," he said, because they believe that offering any help to the Roma encourages them to settle permanently.
But it is possible to win local officials over. The ambassador cited the example of a settlement in Romania, where the order has opened a riding school, giving children the opportunity to learn skills such as equestrian vaulting, or gymnastics on horseback.
When lockdown was imposed on the country this spring, some Roma communities resisted quarantine measures, leading to clashes with police.
(Story continues below)
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"Almost everywhere there was an aggressive reaction, unfriendly. So for the authorities not a very easy situation, very unpleasant. But not in this center where we have this horse riding. The mayor was from the beginning against this center, always, until this year when there had to be quarantine for this center," he said.
"The Roma people in this settlement understood the situation, understood that it was necessary to put the settlement under quarantine. They accepted the situation. So the mayor excused himself officially that he changed his mind. Now he is not, I would say, a friend of the Roma, but now he understands that this work is successful."
Another major concern for Salm is fundraising. He currently has a budget of 1.5 million euros ($1.8 million). He has no running costs for an office or employees as he works from home and his wife does the bookkeeping. But given the economic uncertainty resulting from the coronavirus crisis, he is not sure if he will be able to replenish it when it runs out.
He said: "I have to do the fundraising myself. I would say this is the most difficult work. My wife is always astonished that it is possible for me to find donors. But this year it's 1.5 million euros and I have it. I can finance the work for this year. But what will be next year?"
Salm emphasized that the Roma community in Europe is not homogenous. There are different subgroups in different countries.
"You have the very proud Lovari in Hungary. 'Ló' means 'horse.' You have the very poor Băieși living in Romania. You have many, many different groups," he explained.