Phiren Amenca Regional Seminar “Volunteerism to challenge stereotypes and antigypsyism”

RegSem2016-1

Regional Seminar participants: Volunteers serving in Roma communities across Central and Eastern Europe

In 2016, during the second weekend of December, we had the Phiren Amenca (PA) Regional Seminar for volunteers serving in Roma communities in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) in Budapest. Twelve young participants from the US, Germany, France and Italy participated at this seminar, with the coordination of five facilitators, from Hungary, US and Romania.

During these four days we had the opportunity to be involved in different activities, which allowed us to talk about our situation and share our experiences and feelings about the situation of Roma in each country where we serve as volunteers. It has been very interesting and sad to discover that everyone of them witnessed situation of discrimination, which is still high in the mentality of people and in the politics of the school, where instead the kids should be considered equal all the same, without any form of discrimination.

The volunteers arrived on Thursday afternoon, and we had time to get to know each other and to share our expectations from the seminar. I was very curious to hear the experiences of these guys, because I had arrived in Budapest few days before, and I wasn’t very aware of the situation of Roma in Eastern Europe. We spent some hours together and then, after a pizza, we went out to visit the city.

The second day was very interesting. We started the day with presentations about our placements, and we talked about the place we come from, and we explained our situation. We did some activities to practice and develop cooperation between us and to know each other better.

During the day we had an exercise called ingroup-outgruop, that has enabled us to experience the feeling of being excluded. It reminded me of some situations of my adolescence that I had forgotten, and it made me think a lot about the feeling when you feel excluded from a group. The role-playing game  was really interesting, which we played in the afternoon. It dealt with two different situations of Roma people and we had to take important decisions for the protagonist. It made us think a lot about the difficulties that a poor and discriminated people have to face every day, and sometimes it wasn’t so easy empathize with the characters.

RegSem2016-2The third day we had other different activities –related to the experience of exclusion. The activities were very nice and stimulating: we made a circle and two volunteers had to leave the room. When they could come back in the room, we were talking about smoking, but using the word “book” instead of “cigarettes”. It was very nice to see how creative our discussions were, and how confused the volunteers were at the beginning! When they understood what was going on, they became a part of the group, and explained us how did they feel before understanding the situation.

RegSem2016-3The last night was fantastic: we went all together to a nice place and we helped to cook a traditional Roma dish. We peeled all the potatoes and the onions (crying a lot!), and we cut the meat. The food was great, but the most exciting thing was the concert of Roma music! They played very good, and it was a pity that we listened just a part of the concert, because after some songs, the dinner was ready.

The last day we met and we shared our impressions of the seminar, and we spent the last time we had together. Then everybody left, taking with them something new from this experience and leaving a part of their voluntary impressions.

by Livia Lainati