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September 29, 2022

 

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BARUVAS meeting of Romani students held in Czech Republic for the 16th time: Media education, video production, the history of the Roma and many new friendships

9.9.2022 8:22
The BARUVAS meeting of Romani students at the end of August 2022 in Týnec nad Sázavou (PHOTO: Petr Zewlakk Vrabec)
The BARUVAS meeting of Romani students at the end of August 2022 in Týnec nad Sázavou (PHOTO: Petr Zewlakk Vrabec)

On Saturday, 27 August, the 16th BARUVAS meeting of Romani students came to an end. It was held after a three-year hiatus at the beautiful Hotel Týnec in Týnec nad Sázavou.

During the week-long meeting, the Romani students learned more about discrimination in its various forms, hate speech and racism, and their activities involved working with these issues. During the week the students created more than one theatrical production, an outreach video for social media, and a campaign to support their scholarship program that will launch this fall.

The usual components of the program included a lecture on media literacy, a workshop about the history of the Roma using a virtual reality program set in the concentration camp at Lety u Písku, and a field trip to the nearby ruins of a castle. BARUVAS officially kicked off this time on Monday, 22 August at the main railway station in Prague.

Some of the students had not seen each other for an entire year, so their reunion was quite intensive. More than 40 students from higher vocational schools, secondary schools and universities attended BARUVAS this year.

Approximately half of them were students who were attending the meeting for the first time, but thanks to the support they received from the older students, it was hard to tell who was a BARUVAS newcomer. The first day involved classic games to introduce everybody, checking in to the accommodation and resting after the journey, as the students came from all over the country and some had been travelling for hours.

Heavy subjects for theater skits

Tuesday, as is traditional, was dedicated to the students creating skits. The morning part was about media literacy.

That was followed by a discussion of hate speech, a subject that is currently quite pressing, including the issue of how the public is responding to receiving refugees from Ukraine. The students were then divided into smaller groups such that each included an experienced BARUVAS participant and newcomers.

One representative of each group randomly selected from a hat a genre and a subject and the group then turned it into a skit. The end result was, for example, a fairy tale about Romani people hating other Romani people, or a reality show about segregation in the schools during the communist regime.

"It's delightful to see how much work the students put in to creating the scripts, the costumes and their characters. It's clear to see that a creative approach to these discussions and awareness-raising about subjects that are not exactly easy is the right way to draw attention to them," scholarship program manager Štefan Balog said.

Discussions about discrimination and obstacles to overcome during study

Wednesday morning was led by the experienced journalist and moderator Jarmila Balážová, who discussed the week's subjects with the students - discrimination, hate speech, hatred of refugees, obstacles to overcome during study, racism, and Romani people who hate other Romani people on social media. The students also shared their personal stories about such subjects.

Two guests representing donors to the program also joined the discussion, the director of the Albatros Foundation, Jindra Marešová, and a consultant to Bader Philanthropies, Yechiel Bar-Chaim. "It's quite important to discuss these subjects and to share one's experiences with others," Robin Štrobach, an economics student at the Jan Evangelista Purkyně University, who worked as a co-organizer of this year's BARUVAS meeting, told news server Romea.cz.

"The way we approach such situations and cope with them can inspire the younger, less-experienced students," Štrobach said. The afternoon program then focused again on creative work by the students.

Their task was to prepare a short video to raise awareness about one of the above-mentioned problems and to combat it. "We wanted the students to express their disagreement with what is going on here in a modern way and to show others that it's wrong," Balog explained.

Time travel to Lety

On Thursday, students were able, with the aid of a virtual reality program, to "visit" the concentration camp at Lety u Písku. While one half of the group travelled back to the Second World War through this modern technology, the other half took a trip to the nearby Zbořený Kostelec castle ruins, after which they alternated.

Within the framework of the history of Roma workshop, and using the virtual reality program, students were able to not just see the form of the concentration camp at Lety u Písku, but also to learn about who lived there and, for some specific eyewitnesses to that history, to follow their journey and their lives after the war. All of this was led by Kristina Dienstbierová, who is in charge of the VR project.

Students show great enthusiasm for scholarship campaign

The last day of the program was focused on creating a campaign for social media this autumn. Students learned about several other campaigns from previous years and came to understand what the aim of this year's campaign will be and how it should be conceived.

"I'm really impressed with the kind of verve the students showed when they set about coming up with this campaign. What they've managed to create is just amazing. One idea was all it took to develop a campaign that will be, in my opinion, the best that we have ever had for the scholarship program. The idea of mutual aid is repeated in it, something that we agree with and that functions absolutely normally among the students," Balog said.

Students came up with the campaign in the morning and filmed it together with Romani journalist Lukáš Cirok after lunch. In the evening there was a feedback session during which the students agreed they had enjoyed all of the activities of the summer BARUVAS this year.

"This BARUVAS meeting was my first. What I got out of it is motivation to study, a lot of friends, and a new family. During the week I discovered how proud I am to be Romani," Patrik Grundza, a student of electrical engineering at Pardubice University, told Romea.cz.

Saying goodbye...

The week was over before we knew it and it was time to say goodbye. Some of the students would certainly have been glad to extend their stays, but they have the autumn BARUVAS to look forward to, which can be of some comfort.

It is never easy to say goodbye, but everybody can be pleased about the fact that the friendships they have made this year will stay with them forever. The summer BARUVAS this year ended where it began, at the main railway station in Prague.

The students went home and the organizers are preparing another unforgettable BARUVAS meeting. These are meetings that change young people's lives.

The Roma Scholarship Program is supported by the Albatros Foundation, by Bader Philanthropies, by the SOVA Foundation and by many individual donors. The workshops on media literacy were supported by OSF through its Active Citizens Fund, the aim of which is to support civil society and build the capacities of nonprofit organizations, a program financed by EEA/Norway Grants.

#Sodvahou [#withbravery]

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ROMEA, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Baruvas - Rosteme, Roma, Stipendia, student



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