Do you know where Brno is? Did you know that Brno is the second largest city in the Czech Republic (pop. 380,000) with a considerable population of Roma (est. 15,000 – 17,000), most of whom live in abject poverty?
We reported here about a delegation from an organization from Brno, Czech Republic, who work with the Roma (gypsy) population there, who came to Jerusalem to learn about MiniActive.
In April, Intisar, director of the MiniActive program, and Daud, director of the Atta’a Center, traveled to Brno to provide workshops and hands-on learning to representatives of the IQ Roma organization, one of the largest organizations that works with the Roma population in Brno.
It was quite an intensive, 3-day trip. The IQ Roma organization has been working with the Brno Municipality for the past 12 years, includes a rights department, a welfare department and a child care / development center. Intisar met with professionals, activists and residents. She learned about the Roma population through these meetings, as well as through a trip to the Museum of Romani Culture, which is housed in Brno. She toured the houses and apartment buildings where the Roma population lives (mainly public housing). She answered questions – lots of questions – about the process of the MiniActive program, about challenges, personal and professional, that she encountered, about achievements that they’ve accomplished.
Through these visits, Intisar learned about the similarities and differences between the Roma population of Brno and the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem. They both feel that they are suffering both because of the government actions (or lack thereof) and because of the actions of individuals in their own communities. Both populations have high rates of poverty. However, in contrast to the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem, the Roma population does not have a sense of belonging to Brno or the Czech Republic, nor is education for their children a high priority.
The latter part of her visit was dedicated to exploring if and how principles learned through MiniActive can be applied in Brno. This included meetings with the person in charge of dealing with the Roma population in Brno and his staff, none of whom were Roma themselves. One of the first recommendations (that was accepted) was to hire a member of the Roma community, to be able to better understand their needs on the ground.
Intisar also became part of municipal policy planning for the Roma community. Most of the Roma receive welfare payments, but are required to do 20 monthly hours of community service in order to qualify. She, together with the municipal staff, began planning a program that would include cleaning public areas as part of the required community service. It is hoped that by starting with small steps and the satisfaction of seeing results quickly, will spurn further action and hope for the future.
Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their continued support of the MiniActive and the Atta’a Center programs.