News

The lessons a trainer learns 6: the challenges and solutions of the COVID lockdown

The spring of 2020 was tough on everyone in Hungary. Especially it was tough on the most vulnerable groups, including poor Roma families. Many people who were already living in poverty lost their jobs and lots of families did not have any digital devices or the digital skills to help their children with distance learning. In my final blogpost, I would like to talk about three exemplary Roma professionals – all women – who really made a difference in the lives of poor Roma communities.

The first two professionals – Szilvia and Erzsébet – work for Partners Hungary Foundation, where we managed to continue our Roma programs online and find extra projects/support for Roma communities despite the lockdown. This became possible because in the programs that were already running, we had already managed to build trustful relationships which helped us get past the challenges of learning the usage of new online platforms. The transition to the online world was highly supported by our management who trusted their professionals with flexibility and autonomy and encouraged us to find alternative paths to maintain relationships with the vulnerable communities. Besides, our Roma professionals, both with rich intercultural mediation, leadership and field experience were relentlessly looking for funding opportunities within and outside of our foundation and who were in continuous contact with the Roma communities in need.

Szilvia and Erzsébet managed to provide support to more than 250 deprived Roma families in six villages altogether, either by themselves as individuals or with the help of the intercultural mediators trained by Partners Hungary or through their relationships with other formal and non-formal Roma communities/associations. These families were either provided with laptops or tablets and workshops in digital literacy so that their children do not drop out from school or food, sanitary and cleaning products. They were also involved in workshops, chat groups where they could exchange experience and learn about the new opportunities.

The third professional is a REYN mentee who was trained to become a kindergarten assistant – Laura, about whom you could read in the previous blog post. A strong-willed woman who calls a spade a spade, and who is willing to advocate for the basic human rights of being treated respctfully, no matter one’s background. She had been long dreaming of working with children in a kindergarten, but her ultimate goal was to get a further certificate which would enable her to work in a foster home. Most of the children living in foster homes are Roma, and Laura’s mission is to empower Roma children, to boost their poor self-esteem through love and attention. Through the past months, the lack of professionals working in foster homes became so big that application for a caregiver’s position was not restricted for those who have already completed the necessary training but positions were open for those who have any kind of qualification related to child care and those who would be admitted after the interview would receive the necessary training on the job. Laura applied for a caregiver position and was immediately admitted due to her interpersonal skills and also to her certification as a kindergarten assistant she earned during the REYN program. She started working in April, in the middle of the lockdown period, with no fear towards the virus. She felt that children needed attention and love more than ever since they could not meet their family due to the restrictions. The fact that she is Roma herself was very well received. Since most of the children were Roma too, they treated her as their aunt. Laura says she has a good relationship with her colleagues and her superior as well. She is looking forward to the official caregiver training which will be paid by the foster home.

These Roma professionals’ strong vision, stamina and their ability to find ways in the darkest times give hope to many of us for surviving a possible second wave. While it was not possible to help everyone in need and there is nothing that can compensate for this injustice, there were and are still ways to help many people. The more of us are inspired by such examples, the more of us can find the momentum and the possibility to help get vulnerable groups through tough times. I feel proud and honoured to get to work with such powerful Roma professionals. I hope to tell you further great stories soon. Until then: take care!

Roma Healthy Start: grant for community-based organizations

- News

The Open Society Foundations (OSFs) are offering a grant to support community-based organizations that use elements of the Nurturing Care Concept in their policy models. The aim is to improve pregnancy and birth outcomes, eliminate racial disparities in infant mortality, reduce low birth weight and preterm births, reduce maternal depression, and address the social determinants that affect Roma maternal and child health.

OSFs are looking for inspiring examples of collaborations across sectors designed to improve the health of Roma children and mothers in CEE countries with high Roma population, including but not limited to Bulgaria, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, and Serbia.

The deadline is March 30, 2018. Find more information on the Open Society Foundations’ website.

REYN Italy and REYN Croatia event: Comparing Educational Practices

- News

REYN Italy and REYN Croatia start the autumn season with a joint event called “The Romani child between school and family: comparing educational experiences in Italy and Croatia.”

The event will take place in Rome (Italy) on November 17-19, 2017, focusing on the exchange of innovative educational practices in the two countries.

Associazione 21 Luglio, REYN Italy‘s coordinator, will present some experiences of Italy’s education system. At the same event Sanja Brajković, Psychologist, Open Academy Step by Step Croatia and REYN Croatia, will share innovative practices of her country of origin.

Entrance is free of charge, seating is limited and available on a first come first serve basis.

Find out more in Italian here.

Creating Equitable Societies through Personal Transformation

- Blog | REYN Admin

Embracing Diversity – Creating Equitable Societies through Personal Transformation

Diversity RomaUnder the auspices of ISSA and the Bernard van Leer Foundation’s (BVLF) partnership project, “Capacity Building of Roma Supporting Partners”, ISSA Senior Program Manager Zorica Trikic, and Professor Jelena Vranjesevic from the University of Belgrade delivered training on “Embracing Diversity – Creating Equitable Societies through Personal Transformation”, in Rome in early November.

Embracing Diversity training promotes anti-discrimination and demonstrates how to build a society respectful of diversity. Hosted by ISSA’s Italian member, Associazione 21 Luglio, the three-day event welcomed 30 Roma and non-Roma trainees from all over the country, including some young Roma and Sinti activists.

The training was a poignant and rewarding experience both for trainees and trainers. Based on the honest exchange of first-hand experiences participants unpacked their personal stories highlighting how bias and stereotypes are taught, reinforced and perpetuated before working on how to uses their experiences to promote a more equitable society where diversity is valued, respected and protected.

Professionals from different universities and NGOs, including OsservAzione Popica Onlus, ABCittà, Mops (Movement for International Cooperation), ASCE (Association of Sardinia against marginalization) and University of Salento also participated.

ISSA trainers are available to delivering Embracing Diversity Training throughout the network.

Supporting ECD practitioners in Kosovo

- Blog | REYN Admin

By Albulena Zaimi, REYN Kosovo National Coordinator

Kosovo has the lowest attendance rate for preschool education in region. Whilst pre-primary education offered in elementary schools is free, costs of attendance in public kindergartens are shared between parents; there are also a number of private kindergartens operating in Kosovo with higher cost fee.

This is a relatively heavy burden for the average Kosovo family, with average monthly income ranging between 300 and 400 $. Community-based centers are another form of service for early learning usually used by Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian children. These centers normally use spaces in existing schools or community buildings and are operated by NGOs.

The children attend short daily sessions with a focus on pedagogical activities that are well tuned to children’s age and stage of development . There is very little reliable data on the operation of centers, but their sustainability appears to be a serious problem . People working with the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian children in the community centers come from the communities and with few exceptions most of them do not have the required education and qualification.

REYN Kosovo

Reyn Kosovo

Established and launched in autumn 2013, the Kosovo Roma, Ashkali Egyptian Early Years Network –KRAEEYN strives to provide equitable access to early childhood education for children of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities up to the age of 6 through advocating for inclusion and improving the quality of provision.
More specifically the network is working towards development of skills and good practices, to establish effective partnerships and support capacity building of RAE and non-RAE professionals and paraprofessionals working with RAE children and their families.

KRAEEYN has its steering committee consisted of leading organizations in the country working in the ECD sector: Balkan Sunflowers Kosovo, Save the Children, Nevo Koncepti, Bethany Christian Services.
KRAEEYN has 10 institutional members and more than 60 individual members who are preschool professionals, paraprofessionals and practitioners working with Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian children in Kosovo.

KRAEEYN provides the following support for its members:
• Quality professional development opportunities for RAE and other ECD practitioners
• On-site support system for RAE and other ECD practitioners
• Capacity building of KRAEEYN members for advocacy

Up to date the following capacity building activities were implemented by the KRAEEYN:

REYN KosovoGetting ready for school” has reached 36 network members and was focusing on supporting the practitioners to establish an enabling learning environment in the community centers and at home. All the participating practitioners are applying the gained skills on monthly basis within their community centers reaching the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian parents and children. The members of steering committee have conducted over 20 monitoring visits and have provided direct support to practitioners through critical reflection and advices.

Step by step training (basic level)”, was organized during January and February 2015 reaching in total 18 KRAEEYN members who will implement the learned practices in the day to day work and will be certified.

KRAEEYN has organized a two day workshop on advocacy reaching 12 members of network. The workshop focused on development of an advocacy action plan for the ECD in Kosovo with an emphasis on the local level. The advocacy initiatives will focus on awareness raising about the importance of ECD, institutionalization of the preprimary services provided by community centers and addressing the issue of discrimination in the classrooms.
It is expected that the implementation of the initiatives will start during March 2015

Please check our website and Facebook page

REYN Kosovo

Romani Early Years Network on Facebook

- Blog | Valery Novoselsky

Romani Early Years Network is the joint initiative of the Open Society Foundation’s Roma ‘Kopaçi’ initiatives at the Early Childhood Programme (ECP) and the International Step by Step Association (ISSA).

The goal of the Romani Early Years Network is to empower Roma and non-Roma Early Childhood Development (ECD) professionals and para-professionals working with Romani communities, offering them opportunities for professional development, study visits, and international networking across the early childhood development sector.

This Network had been officially launched on 15 October 2012 on ISSA-DECET Conference 2012 in Opatija, Croatia.

Link: http://www.facebook.com/groups/Romani.Early.Years.Network/