Hello dear readers,
I want to tell you a bit about who I am and why I decided to participate in EVS. I used to be a volunteer for a local Roma association called Nevo Drom that was located in the city where I was born and raised. My city is a quaint place situated on the Black Sea, with a rich history going back over 2,500 years. The best time to visit is during the summer. Let me know if you ever want to visit me, my city, or my family; we are very open and welcome, just ask RASHID . Also, I want to mention that my region is home to over 130 nationalities, which makes it a very unique place.
But, let’s go back to what I was talking about before – the organization where I had my first volunteer experience in Ukraine. As I mentioned, the organization was called Nevo Drom, which means ‘new way’ in Romanes. So, I started my ‘new way’ with this organization in 2009 right after I graduated from university. By education, I’m a civil engineer; I work in building construction and building materials (just let me know if you ever want me to build something). But my reasons for getting involved in Roma activism were more personal – I was born in a big Roma family. My whole life, I have been happy and proud of my heritage, but when I became a teenager, I started to notice and feel people’s reactions when they found out I was Roma. People would say, “no way”, “it’s not true”, “you can’t be Roma”, etc. As soon as they heard I was Roma, they would try and imagine me in terms of the stereotypes they knew.
As I got older, I decided I wanted to learn for myself why people reacted this way. But I quickly learned there was no simple answer. It’s a process, and I still continue today to try and understand why people make these kinds of mistakes. Unfortunately, the conflicts that can arise from associating nationalities with specific traits are not only misguided, but can be dangerous. During my journey to understand people’s misconceptions about Roma, I want share a couple of the mistakes I’ve seen people make. One, people sometimes judge an entire nationality/population by one experience they have had with them. Two, people sometimes think that being part of a minority population in a country somehow makes you less of a citizen than non-minority citizens. Three, people sometimes think crime is genetic – that crime can specifically be a trait of a certain nationality/population.
I could talk for a long time about why these are misconceptions and how they influence people in situations, but I think the best way to combat them is through personal action and experience. If you ask me why you need education, I will answer you: because I personally know how it has helped me and how I use it; if you ask me why it is important to know English or another language, I can give you many examples of how it has helped me in my work and my daily life. But I don’t want to say that my experiences necessarily apply to you, or that I have the secret recipe for success. In my case, it has been a long process of trial and error that continues to this day. And I suggest you do the same – don’t just take me word for it, go out and do it for yourself. Always try, always be moving forward, always spin the wheel.
Now, I am continuing my volunteer service in the Hungarian capital of Budapest. There is a great team here at the Roma youth organization Phiren Amenca, which has been teaching me a lot, and inspiring me to inspire. If you want to know more and the organization, look here: LINK
So, after I return to my quaint hometown in Ukraine, my plan is to continue on my volunteering way with new knowledge and new ideas. Also, I’m pretty sure that I haven’t given you a completely clear picture of my EVS this year – if you have any questions, comments, or advices, I would love to here from you. Here is my contact info: fb:Maxim Flora / skype:flora_fauna11 / email: [email protected]