Roma Helping Roma mentoring project in Czech Republic sees results
When she was not yet 14, Maruška shoplifted a gold chain worth CZK 16 000 from a jewelry store. "Juvenile court sentenced her to several months' supervision by a probation officer," says Marek Demner, coordinator of the Roma Helping Roma project (Romové pomáhají Romům) in Pardubice. The project aims to expand and improve the "Mentor" services targeting members of the Romani minority who have gotten into trouble with the law and who are eligible for alternative sentencing.
During Maruška's trial it turned out that her arrest for shoplifting was not the only difficulty she had encountered in recent months. She had also had problems at school, according to the local daily paper, Pardubický deník.
"She had dozens of unexcused hours of absence from school and teachers complained about her lack of discipline and progress. At that time, Maruška's mother had moved away to a neighboring district with Maruška's sisters, so she was living alone with her father," Demner says.
Maruška's cooperation with the probation officer did not get off to a very good start. She only occasionally attended her consultations and her problems at school continued.
"At the start of her probation, Maruška became pregnant. The probation officer asked Eva, an experienced mentor, to work with Maruška. Together they decided on the topics they would cover. The aim was for Maruška to attend school regularly and graduate. Her father and the boyfriend with whom she was preparing to have the child had to be involved as well," says Demner.
Eva visited Maruška at home. The girl gradually began to trust her mentor and confide her problems to her. After several weeks, Maruška's discipline and performance at school improved. She was also able to better handle living with her father and her relationship with her boyfriend.
"The role of the mentor was even more significant after Maruška gave birth to her daughter. Eva taught Maruška how to handle the role of a mother and care for her child. Several weeks after giving birth, Maruška returned to school," said Demner. "Her daughter is six months old now. The mentor visits Maruška at home twice a week. She helps her and advises her on how to care for her daughter and how to manage her daily housework, the family's financial situation, contact with the authorities, applying for social welfare, etc.," Demner says.
Romani mentoring was expanded into the Pardubice region during 2005 -2008. Since May 2006 there have been eight Romani mentors collaborating with three Probation and Mediation Services centers in Pardubice, Ústí nad Orlicí and Chrudim.
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