Phiren Amenca

“Volunteering as a Tool for Roma Youth Participation” study session

Reflection of Kendra Rose Hernandez, Phiren Amenca volunteer

The Study Session on Volunteering as a Tool for Roma Youth Participation included many discussion and workshops that opened up great opportunity for learning and sharing. Some topics discussed included recruitment, diversity, volunteerism, intersectionality, and Roma youth participation.

Each day was full of fun activities, deep discussion, and some debate. Most sessions included time in smaller groups to allow for more voices to be heard and ideas to be processed more thoroughly. Monday consisted of team-building and getting to know one another. Expectations were talked
over so that to ensure a safe and fun space to work in. We wanted to make sure everyone felt comfortable to share opinions and experiences. Allowing time to get to know each other better helped cultivate deeper discussions over the topics discussed later in the week. We also talked over the local realities of Roma representation and participation and had time in smaller groups to share personal experiences or observances. The evening was spent having fun sharing about the cultures of each other’s countries through food, song, and dance. The topics covered on Tuesday included human rights in international youth work, Roma diversity, recruitment, and social media strategies. The first portion of the day was spent realizing how what we usually perceive as “needs” can often line up with human rights and how they should be accessible to all. Further conversations included ways that these human rights are often infringed upon and the fight that needs to happen to ensure all communities have equal opportunities. We also dove into the existence of diversity within Roma Populations. In the afternoon, we talked through tools that can be used for recruitment and how these relate to engaging Roma into volunteering. Social media was a tool that was often brought up and a session was given on how to strategize your social media practices so that they can be effective.

Wednesday was a short day to allow for free time in the afternoon for participants to recharge (in whatever way that meant). An interactive activity started off the morning and talked through different aspects of antigypsyism. Participants were split into two groups – Roma and non-Roma – to discuss different questions. At the end of discussion time, sharing time was allocated to place those identifying as non-Roma in a disadvantage to make a point. This point was that the voices of Roma are often not given the same space as other voices and are often not heard and this is a battle that continues. The simulation was made such an impact and opened a lot of eyes, including my own, to reality. The other half of the morning was spent talking through ways organizations or mentors can support volunteers at the beginning, during, and after their time of service.

The last two days of the seminar were packed full of topics that could be talked about for weeks. We had two time slots that held three parallel workshops each. In the first time slot, the three workshops were Gender/Women’s Rights, Anti-Racism, and Hate Speech. In the second time slot, Religion, Children’s Rights, and LGBTQIA+. Each consisted of different types of activities and interesting discussions which led into a debriefing with the whole group going into a short session on Intersectionality. After lunch, we moved into a session on Alumni involvement where we shared ideas on how to keep volunteers involved after their time of service and how their experiences could benefit others, including future volunteers. We ended Thursday with another interactive activity, this time revolving around Roma youth participation which then led to a fruitful debate. Each day was closed with time in small groups to reflect on learnings, feelings, and thoughts on the day. These times of reflections allowed for Friday to be a day to discuss everything that was learned in order to develop a guide and to also think about future steps or opportunities.

Overall, the seminar was a wonderful learning opportunity for all that were involved and I look forward to see what tools acquired are used in the near future.