8 April – REYN gives visibility to young Roma children affected by the war in Ukraine

This day last year, when we marked the 50th International Roma Day, we enthusiastically looked toward a better Europe for all, emphasizing the fundamental need for equality, inclusion, and participation to fight antigypsyism — we all hoped this year would be different.

But, one year later, the persistent discrimination and social inequalities that Roma in Ukraine face are only exacerbated by war. Roma are encountering additional hardships when seeking humanitarian assistance to meet their most basic needs, even while trying to cross borders to safety.

Today, we want to tell you the stories of young Roma children and their families experiencing additional adversity due to the war and share one organization’s work to bring hope on this 51st International Roma Day.

Hear me – See me – Stand with me tells the story of the REYN Ukraine‘s remarkable work, acknowledging their tireless efforts to create safe and welcoming spaces for Roma families fleeing war zones. A Station of Hope serves as a safe haven; it provides a welcoming environment where children can express themselves, be heard, play, and interact with peers. At the same time, parents can engage with professionals, learn, and support one another. Despite the harsh environment of war, a Station of Hope succeeds in building community and creating a sense of normalcy for children and their families.

Watch the video here. How will you contribute to making 2022 different for young Roma children and their families? Will you hear Roma, see Roma, stand with Roma? Take to Twitter with the hashtag #standwithRoma to join the conversation.

Khetaun sam zoraleder. Opre Roma! / Together, we grow stronger. Rise up Roma! 

Poor health stunts Roma children’s development, EPHA says

A new report by the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) focuses on how socioeconomic preconditions affect the health of Roma in Europe. Infant mortality is reported to be between two to three times higher than majority population.

“The worse the socioeconomic situation of a social group, the worse its health status is”, EPHA says. According to their new report, Roma are the minority which suffers the most from health problems and higher mortality. The life expectancy of Roma people is five to twenty years shorter compared to the average population.

The report is a review of both quantitative and qualitative studies, including published articles, reports, surveys, statistics, strategy and discussion papers sources.

Children are among the most impacted.

The infant mortality is between two to three times higher than the majority population. Low birth weight and malnutrition affect Roma children disproportionately, impacting their social and educational attainment.

The evidence is clear, the healthy development of a child is heavily conditioned by the environment in which they live.

We know that the “early years experiences affect the brain architecture, which provides the foundation for all future learning, behavior, and health” (Harvard). The early “experiences and environmental influences “get under the skin” and interact with genetic predispositions” (Harvard).

As reported by EPHA, poverty and school segregation affect Roma children more. Preschool attendance of Roma children is in some cases (Czech Republic and Slovakia) four times lower than national average. Also, half of the Roma between six and 24 years of age in Europe do not attend school.

EPHA calls on EU Member States to do more for the health of Roma, “because good health is a precondition for wellbeing and social inclusion”.

Download the study here.

PhD project on services for Roma communities. Apply now!

- News

The Northumbria University Newcastle seeks candidates to their PhD project titled “Exploring interventions to tackle service provider discrimination against Roma, Gypsy and Traveller Communities”.

Health inequalities and lack of services hit Roma and Travellers disproportionately. According to the Roma Health Report of the European Union (2014), the Roma population has considerably shorter life expectancy compared to the non-Roma population. When it’s about education, only one Romani child in two goes to kindergarten.

To address consistent disparities in the access to services like education and care, The Northumbria University Newcastle is sponsoring a new PhD project. The PhD “will explore how models of service provider education can best be developed and implemented, in order to reduce discrimination and increase service access for Roma, Gypsy and Traveller Communities. Using a collective case study design, encompassing the perspectives of professionals and community members, it aims to collate learning from existing equality and diversity training initiatives.”

The deadline for applications is Friday 25 January 2019.

Find more details here.


REYN Slovenia helps little Valentina hear again

- News

Thanks to the help of the Local Action Team established by REYN Slovenia, Valentina, 5 years old, has received hearing aid.

The little Valentina, was often sitting in the corner. She did not attend pre-school although she regularly went to the Centre for School and Outdoor Education activities organized in the Roma settlement.

Valentina, so we will call her to protect her privacy, was always enthusiastic to go to the workshops but did not actively participate in signing or dancing. With time, the professionals who worked with her, realized that she had difficulties with hearing.

She was not being brought to the doctor despite the advices of the Local Action Team (LAT). The LAT, is formed by professionals from preschools and schools, Roma representatives, health and social workers of the Social and Health Care Centre, which operates in the Roma settlement. They meet regularly, and with the local municipality of Grosuplje plan activities towards the inclusion of Roma.

Valentina’s family lived in difficult economic conditions. They do not have water and electricity at home. Also, they were off the radar of the public health authorities and they couldn’t afford private medical treatment.

With the involvement of the LAT, a local practitioner built a strong and trustful relationship with the family. This led to the arrangement of a doctor’s appointment where her hearing problems were diagnosed. Her parents also enrolled Valentina to preschool.

As the communication between the parents and the preschool was on a good level, they could follow the girl’s progress after she received her medical treatment. The Social and Health Care Centre monitored her development too.

Thanks to the hearing aid Valentina is now more responsive, self-confident and can actively follow the activities inside and outside the school.

Read more about what REYN Slovenia does here.
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Roma health rates still alarm Europe, EU hearing reveals

- Blog | Stanislav Daniel

Imagine the European Union, the world’s most powerful economy, with all its technology and innovation in place. And imagine that there is a huge group of people, including young children, older adults or people with disabilities that do not have access to running water. And imagine they mostly belong to one ethnic group.

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) organized a public hearing on Roma health in Brussels last Monday. I attended with Maria Evgenieva, Clinical Leader of home visiting programs with the Trust for Social Achievement (TSA).

Maria reported on the situation in the country: “Infant mortality of Roma children compared to their non-Roma peers is still unacceptably high, despite the efforts done in the past years to reduce it”, she said.

Alarmingly, 30% of Roma in the EU live in households with no tap water, and only half of young Roma children attend early childhood education – this is often less than half the proportion of children of their age from the general population in the same country (EU Fundamental Rights Agency).

The hearing’s title was “Roma’s health situation and their access to healthcare: assessing women’s and children’s health”.

TSA coordinates the REYN National Network Bulgaria. Maria presented their program Nurse Family Partnership, which brings health services to Romani pregnant women, mothers and children. People who often don’t have access to services because they are unable to pay for medicines and health checkups or because they aren’t informed well enough.

The program is active in many countries. What is remarkable about it is that better health (improved prenatal health and pregnancy outcomes) also leads to improved school readiness, fewer cases of child abuse and neglect, and decreased likelihood of involvement in criminal activities up to 15 years of age.

Poverty and health in the EU

The lack of access to health services, or services determining health (e.g. access to water) indeed plays a significant role and poverty or low socio-economic status often go hand in hand with bad health. However, we need to keep in mind that higher income does not automatically lead to better health.

The Nurturing Care Framework, the guiding document for healthy development of young children, identifies several major risk factors for suboptimal development, and poverty is only one of them. The other ones are: malnutrition, insecurity, gender inequities, violence, environmental toxins, and caregivers’ mental health.

Just reading through the identified risk factors, we can easily see that there are multiple factors that contribute to health.  The key here is that health is a value on its own and is a concept much broader than just healthcare.

Shared values

We have witnessed multiple projects and initiatives aiming to improve the situation of Roma. Some were successful, some not. The key to long-term improvements is in the shared values behind the motivations.

We strive for a European Union where people would consider unacceptable that the life expectancy of members of one ethnic group could be ten years shorter. Without blaming anyone, we need to create a shared vision of equal access to health for all and of the right of every child to develop their full potential.

INTERVIEW – Art Aktivista uses colors to fight Roma segregation

- News

They have “the largest canvas and the widest palette of colors”, “they paint the pavement, public spaces and have a lot of fun”. These are some of the words that Romani children from Sečovce (Slovakia) have used to describe Art Aktivista – an NGO that empowers children in segregated communities by using art. The REYN Coordinator, Stanislav Daniel has interviewed two team members Tomáš Rafa and Jana Pohanková.

How does an artist come to the idea of redesigning public spaces in Roma communities?

“At the beginning I wanted bring the attention on a wall that was built in Michalovce (Slovakia) to segregate Roma people” – says Art Aktivista founder Tomáš Rafa. “According to the town representatives it was a “sport wall” not a segregating wall. Back then, as a student of the Academy of Arts, I decided to go and play football there. There is a video recording of me playing with children that I posted on YouTube. Later, I decided to fund Art Aktivista to continue working with children, as we see in them a lot of potential and a huge dose of creativity that we are keen to develop further.”

Your creative workshops are called art therapy. Are you healing the relationships between communities?

“Our artistic workshops are mostly aimed on the creative processes and spontaneous interactions with children. The course of action is coordinated with a social worker and an art therapist. Art therapy is one of the tools we use in our work with children. In addition, there is a social aspect: we put stress on building relationships and mutual trust. By encouraging their artistic vibes, we nurture the children’s creative potential and self-realization.”


Should we assume that painting is a road to something else?

“We believe that this helps in releasing some tensions and through the colors, they speak about the world they live in. These children lead their daily fight against social exclusion and poverty. We learn about things they might normally be ashamed to talk about. The non-verbal communication brings a new energy in the few days of happenings.”

You have been going to the village of Sečovce for several years now.

Photo by Tomáš Rafa

“Since 2012, we have been organizing painting workshops near segregating walls in several places Ostrovany, Veľká Ida and Sečovce. In the latter, we painted the wall that bounded the settlement in the neighborhood of Habeš.
The children were keen to participate and were very active. It was also interesting for us to spend a week there. We realized what it means to live in a settlement. After that, we came back to Sečovce every year. We kept fundraising for the project and this year, we have come with the financial support of the Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic. Among other things, we created painting workshops and helped the children to revitalize the shared spaces of the flats.”

What changes do you see among the youngest children as a result of your activities?

“We think they are more courageous and more communicative. It happened that some pre-teenage children were creating conflicts but we saw those children growing and collaborating much better in the following years.”

Isolation plays a big role in the status of the local Roma community. Do you get to talk to the local non-Roma?

“We managed to organize a public exhibition from one of the painting workshops in the nearby town Trebišov. Children from the settlement came, too. They were very happy to see that the people from the town appreciated their work.

In our projects we highlight some key matters: support to children and their development, building mutual relationships, getting to know the specifics of each community and creating spaces for the self-realization of children and for the whole community. But most importantly we stress out that cooperation is the way to go.”

Visit to learn more.

Engaging the Roma mothers: a practical approach to Health Visiting

- News

(UNICEF/John McConnico)

Health Visiting has been increasingly successful in protecting the health of mothers and children. In addition, the practice improves parental well-being and parenting efficacy, as well as child outcomes.

How to assist Roma – yet to be – mothers who sometimes don’t speak the local language and are often not reached by health services? The reply is provided on a blog posted by the Institute of Health Visiting and written by Louise Wolstenholme and Alison Caden, health visitors at Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.

The community in question comprehended about 6000 Roma migrants, who had moved from Slovakia to Sheffield (UK) in 2007-2008. “They usually live within extended supportive families; they start out on parenthood from a young age and can traditionally have large families”,  Wolstenholme and Caden write.

The two health visitors reached out to mums in the perinatal period and who were struggling to carry out effective assessments. At first, it was difficult to talk to them in private: “Whenever we meet with women in their homes they are in company of an audience of curious cousins, parents, children and passing neighbours.” In other cases they had to use an interpreter; “not easy if you are trying to talk about intimate health issues”, Wolstenholme and Caden say.

The idea

The difficulties were overcome by “normalizing” the access to health care. “We hit on the idea of a health café situated at the heart of the community in Fir Vale Oasis Academy – open at school pick-up time so women could drop in for their antenatal or baby checks and we could use the opportunity to pick up on any mental health concerns too.”

The creation of this health café unlocked the situation and attracted many mothers who could speak directly with health practitioners. “Over 100 families told us their concerns about their children – diet came top, closely followed by dental and emotional wellbeing.”

Read more on their blog.

If you are interests in Home Visiting you can find loads of Resource Modules for Home Visitors on the ISSA website.