Sar San 2.0: learning and participation starts early

- Blog | REYN Admin

by Ray Lorenzo, SarSan 2.0 Project

The SAR SAN 2.0 Project aims to promote and reinforce the rights and well-being of Roma children and families and to create favorable conditions for social inclusion and individual-community learning and development. It is the central component of an integrated intervention model with young Roma children, mothers and families in the city of Rome which applies and evaluates innovative learning, capacity building and empowerment approaches in diverse living contexts (formal and informal encampments, temporary housing, school-community, etc.) within a wide-reaching advocacy strategy aimed at overturning Roman and Italian segregated encampment policies.

The ABCittà Cooperative and the 21 Luglio Association are collaborating partners in this Bernard van Leer Foundation supported project. All of the Project actions – with children and adults – work to activate inter-relational learning processes, based on trust, which allow the participants to grow, acquire skills and make their voices heard concerning their rights and future. Building bridges towards social inclusion between competent individuals and groups. Here, I will focus on exclusively on those activities which place Roma young children and mothers at the center.

Our weekly laboratory workshops with young children (2 – 7 years) – in the presence of their families, in home settings – revolve around and are guided by three key word-concepts:

Desire. Just as there cannot be action without motivation, learning cannot occur without desire. Thus, we stimulate the children’s affective intelligence – from feeling to thinking, from thinking to deciding. Growing from and resting on the support of the child’s own emotions.

Participation. We work to guarantee those conditions in which all children can take initiative and have a voice in reading, interpreting and contributing to their life spaces and relations.

Mutual Learning. We do all that is possible to make each child feel responsible for what the group produces; since all have, at least in part, contributed to its results.

Here below is a partial synthesis of our activity plan.

THE ROUTINE. We propose simple sequences of linked actions that make children participate consciously through gestures and behaviors – in a pleasant atmosphere of sharing. In the “routine activities” the children also feel responsible and capable of occasionally taking on the role of “facilitator” with regard to other children who may need help. Our “routine” is carried out in a flexible manner, taking into account the step by step achievements of the children and by gradually introducing new “group rules” which enable further learning and autonomy.

SINGING TOGETHER. This takes place with or without music to stimulate harmony with others, individual initiative and the ability to expose oneself and test acquired skills. A portion takes place in a circle treating such issues as identity, socialization, respect for the space and time of all. Another occurs through movement – both guided and free – working on the child’s perception of space through dance to accompany the development of personality as a unity of body, mind and emotions.

EXPRESSIVE AND SENSORIAL ARTS. To stimulate children’s creativity and free expression and reinforce their self-esteem, we encourage them to draw from their own experiences with respect to the specific activity (difficulty, pleasure, curiosity, shame, etc.) and to develop a dialogue with their emotions (recognition and verbal expression) through sensory activities such as painting, manipulation (salt dough and other materials), collage-making (coffee, lentils, corn meal, wood, leaves, tissue paper), etc.

ANIMATED READING. We use books with simple but significant stories and images as stimulants (we select texts of high aesthetic quality) to create an emotional relationship between the children and the book it itself. This helps them to begin “reading”, stimulates their language and expressive skills and creates a habit of listening and deferring attention. This leads to the creation of mental images and creates a common ground of ideas-images and emotions and stimulates their symbolic capacities. Children, overtime, construct their own books and share them with their families.

STREET GAMES. We propose traditional games such as “HOP SCOTCH”, “jump rope”, “drawing with chalk”, “nursery rhymes” and other traditionally known outdoor and street games with shared rules which encourage the child, and especially his parents to (re)discover that all can and should play every day in a simple and affordable way, often with “found” materials.



Key Characteristics / Goals / Actions of Sàr San to Communicate:

Locally testing innovative learning and empowerment approaches aimed at facilitating development and social inclusion within an wider exit strategy from the encampments.

  • Innovative quality learning activities with young Roma children & mothers
  • Empowerment of Roma woman and children: strengthening voices, choices and capacities
  • Support access to services (health, education, social) – steps towards autonomy
  • Change the societal image of Roma – communication of narratives & stories.
  • Build “bridges” between Roma and others. Occasions for trust, dialog and collaboration.
  • Advocacy – activate discourses to change “the discourse” and the laws.
  • Build networks and alliances … in support of Roma rights and project objectives
  • All within an overall, medium-long term exit strategy from the encampments

Obstacles we face in various contexts:

  • Grave socio-environmental conditions and the precariousness of working (and living) in encampments.
  • Segregation and isolation
  • The distrust of / between the Roma and gagè societies
  • Closure and prejudice of local institutions and community.
  • The “immensity of the “Roma question” in the Roman and Italian context.
  • (Therefore) the exponential nature of response (“every action to resolve a problem opens up ten more”)

. A first listing of some project “strengths” (in contrast to the obstacles)

  • A responsive approach: capable of reacting to “what happens” and adapting activities.
  • A participatory approach: capable of stimulating autonomous initiatives and reinforcing capacities to make choices together.
  • A multi-disciplinary team: convinced of the value of an integrated approach
  • Small actions aimed at specific local contexts but accompanied by an ample strategy of advocacy, communication and networking at a city-wide, regional and national level.