The spring of 2020 was tough on everyone in Hungary. Especially it was tough on the most vulnerable groups, including poor Roma families. Many people who were already living in poverty lost their jobs and lots of families did not have any digital devices or the digital skills to help their children with distance learning. In my final blogpost, I would like to talk about three exemplary Roma professionals – all women – who really made a difference in the lives of poor Roma communities.
The first two professionals – Szilvia and Erzsébet – work for Partners Hungary Foundation, where we managed to continue our Roma programs online and find extra projects/support for Roma communities despite the lockdown. This became possible because in the programs that were already running, we had already managed to build trustful relationships which helped us get past the challenges of learning the usage of new online platforms. The transition to the online world was highly supported by our management who trusted their professionals with flexibility and autonomy and encouraged us to find alternative paths to maintain relationships with the vulnerable communities. Besides, our Roma professionals, both with rich intercultural mediation, leadership and field experience were relentlessly looking for funding opportunities within and outside of our foundation and who were in continuous contact with the Roma communities in need.
Szilvia and Erzsébet managed to provide support to more than 250 deprived Roma families in six villages altogether, either by themselves as individuals or with the help of the intercultural mediators trained by Partners Hungary or through their relationships with other formal and non-formal Roma communities/associations. These families were either provided with laptops or tablets and workshops in digital literacy so that their children do not drop out from school or food, sanitary and cleaning products. They were also involved in workshops, chat groups where they could exchange experience and learn about the new opportunities.
The third professional is a REYN mentee who was trained to become a kindergarten assistant – Laura, about whom you could read in the previous blog post. A strong-willed woman who calls a spade a spade, and who is willing to advocate for the basic human rights of being treated respctfully, no matter one’s background. She had been long dreaming of working with children in a kindergarten, but her ultimate goal was to get a further certificate which would enable her to work in a foster home. Most of the children living in foster homes are Roma, and Laura’s mission is to empower Roma children, to boost their poor self-esteem through love and attention. Through the past months, the lack of professionals working in foster homes became so big that application for a caregiver’s position was not restricted for those who have already completed the necessary training but positions were open for those who have any kind of qualification related to child care and those who would be admitted after the interview would receive the necessary training on the job. Laura applied for a caregiver position and was immediately admitted due to her interpersonal skills and also to her certification as a kindergarten assistant she earned during the REYN program. She started working in April, in the middle of the lockdown period, with no fear towards the virus. She felt that children needed attention and love more than ever since they could not meet their family due to the restrictions. The fact that she is Roma herself was very well received. Since most of the children were Roma too, they treated her as their aunt. Laura says she has a good relationship with her colleagues and her superior as well. She is looking forward to the official caregiver training which will be paid by the foster home.
These Roma professionals’ strong vision, stamina and their ability to find ways in the darkest times give hope to many of us for surviving a possible second wave. While it was not possible to help everyone in need and there is nothing that can compensate for this injustice, there were and are still ways to help many people. The more of us are inspired by such examples, the more of us can find the momentum and the possibility to help get vulnerable groups through tough times. I feel proud and honoured to get to work with such powerful Roma professionals. I hope to tell you further great stories soon. Until then: take care!