Community Development

Urvind Community Project

A life-change opportunity for the gypsy community of this village started in the summer of 1998!

Housing, electricity, running water were brought to the site; feeding and educational programs were started for the children; other humanitarian aid and recently medical assistance has been supplied to the families.

 

The first project of the charity was in the village of Urvind where the standard of living was improved for the people by providing twenty houses modified from metal containers.

Electricity, running water, a bath house and a feeding program were gradually added through time.

It recently expanded to include education and medical assistance as well.

‘Loving to learn and Learning to Love’ Program in Urvind Village today.

Introduction

The Gypsy people have always been outsiders in Romania, but after nearly 20 years since the demise of the communist regime--which offered them some protection--they are further marginalized.

This has both caused and is exacerbated by higher than average levels of poverty and unemployment, poor levels of education, and overcrowded living conditions.

They have lived in the country for hundreds of years, but are not integrated because of widespread discrimination and stigma.

  • An estimated 85% of Gypsies live below subsistence levels,
  • Their life expectancy is up to 15 years below average.
  • They have a high birth rate but their exact number is subject to speculation.
  • Roma organizations suggest a number as high as 2,5 million
  • A disturbing illiterate rate among gypsies, 1 out of 10 can read or write.

There is still reluctance in the gypsy community to go on to secondary school after 10-11 years of age and high-school for some is still not an option. The primary cause would be lack of access to pre-school education and failure to keep up in primary school with the children of their age.

Content

Considering the above, the birth of Gypsy Pre-School Project is an alternative to mainstream education. Education is a priority for “People to People”, because:

  • we know that better levels of education could offer poor children a future full of hope
  • we know that education is a key factor in breaking the cycle of deprivation that many poor people and their families face.

Our research into a local school shows that there is much willingness on the part of Roma children to participate in mixed schools (Roma and non-Roma) but that there is still much reluctance on the part of the majority children and their parents to accept the Roma as their equals.

Through our project children have access to a well equipped facility in the middle of their neighborhood with:

  • electricity,
  • running water,
  • heated classroom,
  • playground,
  • also planning for a fully equipped kitchen where they have a snack/meal each day.

Pre-school program:

More than a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names, and most are poorer and unhealthier than those who can. They are the world’s functional illiterates and their total includes more than 130 million children who do not attend school, 73 million of them girls.
Yet the ability to claim and enjoy the rights of an informed and responsible citizen rests squarely on a child’s access to a good basic education. A quality education - that encourages children’s participation and critical thinking and is infused with the values of peace and human dignity - has the power to transform societies in a single generation.
Furthermore, the fulfillment of a child’s right to education offers protection from a multitude of hazards, such as a life consigned to poverty, bonded labor in agriculture or industry, domestic labor, commercial sexual exploitation.

Romanian educational system deals with (or fails to deal with) the integration of Roma children in public education. People to People wants to assist the Roma in facing the challenges of the twenty-first century in Romania, by providing teaching methods and a curriculum in such a way that school becomes interesting for Roma children, and also that majority of students and teachers become more familiar with Roma culture and history.

This is how from this year we decided to initiate such a program for a class of 25 children and start the procedures for becoming an accredited pre-school facility for the integration of these gypsy children in the State school of their own community.

Andreea Pontos

Social Worker & Coordinator of Social Services

People to People Foundation, Oradea, Romania

 

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