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August 17, 2017
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They didn´t believe he was a university student, but he didn´t give up. Baruvas helps young Roma grow.

15.6.2017 8:57
Romani students on 2 June 2017 during the media workshop that was part of the
Romani students on 2 June 2017 during the media workshop that was part of the "Baruvas" meeting in Prague. (PHOTO: Petr Zewlakk Vrabec)

During the first weekend in June, the third meeting of Romani students in the Baruvas program ("We Are Growing", in Romanes) - part of the Roma Scholarship Program offered by the ROMEA organization - took place in Prague. The aim of this regular event is to give Romani students room to get to know and motivate each other and support their identity and personality development through various activities and workshops.

"We are repeatedly convinced that these meetings infuse students with optimism and motivate them to study, which is absolutely essential for us. The ideal state is not that Romani people will adapt to society such that they totally assimilate, but that they will discover opportunities for symbiosis with it, because that is how they can enrich both society and themselves," says program coordinator Renata Berkyová.

Experiences, inspiration, new skills

The group of 20 students from all over the Czech Republic, including students of biology, criminal justice, economics and law, met interesting Romani figures during the packed program, such as successful fashion designer Pavel Berky, historian Martin Cichý and pianist Robert Ferenc. The students also had the opportunity to meet sponsors of the program, including individual donors and representatives, among others, of THE VELUX FOUNDATIONS, Bader Philanthropies, Albatros, Nestlé, Agrofert, the Norwegian and American Embassy and Salanga.

The donors appreciated the opportunity to meet the students in person and learn more about their achievements and the program's plans. "It is clear to us that our contribution is minute compared to what you need, but in any event we will attempt to contribute this year again. Your program inspired us and to see those involved in it in real life is just excellent," said Alžběta and Martin Orság, who have donated individually to the program.

Within the framework of the program a workshop on media production was designed for the students. Those attending could try their hand at writing a news piece, filming and producing a video interview, or learning how a magazine is put together.

"I most enjoyed the workshop at the ROMEA organization, where I got the opportunity to write my own article for the magazine Romano Voďi. After this experience I am thinking about dedicating myself to this during my studies," law student Klaudia Vospálková said.

Another interesting part was a theatrical seminar based on the principles of the "Theater of the Oppressed", led by experienced lecturer Dana Moree. By means of theatrical techniques, students reflected on the roles of "assailant" and "victim", on various conflict situations, and primarily on conflict prevention.

In the afternoon the students spent time with mothers and their children living in a shelter in Prague 7. The students prepared brief games for the children in a nearby park.

"I am very surprised that all of these people are Romani and all are studying at such good schools. I would also like my son to study," confessed one of the mothers, who also described an important point of the afternoon meeting, which was for the university students to motivate and serve as an example for the next generation of young Roma.

Because during the meeting the KHAMORO World Roma Festival was also in full swing, the students also attended the parade of performers and the closing gala concert. That was a reward for their active attendance of the workshops ROMEA organized for them.

It makes sense

"When we began designing the first meeting of students last year at Doubravka, which is in the middle of the Vysočina Region, I never suspected how much it would change my perspective on Romani youth and their actual needs. I believed that spending a weekend with them would be more about experiences and fun, but today I am convinced that these gatherings help them to advance themselves," program coordinator Berkyová said.

Her words were confirmed by economics student Robert Oláh: “It is very motivating for me to see so many Romani youth around me who are doing their best to improve their lives through education although they must overcome many barriers to do so. I am experiencing personally that it is not easy to be Romani in the Czech Republic."

"Recently, for example, a train conductor did not believe the student identification card I showed him was actually mine," the economics student said. "I perceive this meeting to be all the more important and inspiring because of such experiences."

"Don't let yourself be deterred, see all you are involved in through to a successful end," Oláh advises other Romani students. Jan Kanaloš, who came to the meeting from Liberec, agreed: "I would like to thank all who contributed to the pleasant atmosphere, who enjoyed it at least as much as I did, and who drew inspiration and new experiences from it."

"I believe what we are all doing makes sense," Kanaloš said. The next Baruvas meeting will take place at the end of the summer in the Krkonoše Mountains in collaboration with the Czech Education Ministry. This time ROMEA is involving also the students in the preparation of the program and organization of this upcoming summer camp, so that they have a chance to gain new skills, experience and so that the program reflects the students´ needs. 

For more information about the program, visit www.romskastipendia.cz. If you would like to aid the students with fulfilling their academic and professional dreams by making a financial contribution, please visit www.romskastipendia.cz/darujte.

ROMEA, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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setkání s Romy, Stipendia, student, studie



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