STORIES OF PREJUDICE AND DISCRIMINATION

Raluca Handoca

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I have been a volunteer for a German NGO that helps the children coming from Gypsies and families with social problems from my hometown and its surroundings since 2010. In 6 years I have participated to multiple events such as fundraisings and Christmas packages distribution.  In this years I was able to see some of the children from the program grow up and I came to the conclusion that what we do helps them for short term.

There is a big Gypsy community in Gheorgheni, a small town where this community was somehow shunt to the boarder of the town. The city hall even moved some offices closer to them so they would not come to town so often. They are clearly discriminated but I believe that this will not change unless they change their lifestyle a little.

In the past years, the NGO provides them with food monthly. This food sometimes ends up in the small stores near the community. So how is this helping them if they end up selling the help for money that they use for different purposes? Let’s say maybe food is not their main problem, then why are they still making their kids beg for food in the parking of the supermarkets from the town? Why would they refuse help and then beg for the same type of help that they already got?

Another thing that happens is when they receive help for building a house. They get materials and in some cases even a new house from scratch. The last time the NGO built a house for a family they managed to make it almost unlivable in less than a year.

Education and hygiene are other things that come with the help of the NGO. Each year, every child from the community receives a Christmas gift with school supplies, hygiene supplies, toys and sweets, and sometimes even clothes. As it happens with the food, most of the school and hygiene supplies end up in the local stores. But each year when we distribute the packets, there is a fight, they threaten us even using knifes for more and one year they robbed one of our cars.

I know that we are not the only NGO that helps that community and their behavior is similar. Schools and churches have been built for them and they do not seem to appreciate or even use the facilities that they have. Why?

The discrimination will not stop until they learn to accept our help for the real reasons not for selling what they get. I am not saying that this is the case of every family from the community because I have seen progress. There are families that managed to move out from the community into the town in flats, they got jobs and their children go to school every day. But the majority still sticks to their habits of stealing and begging. The main problem is that each year they become more and more violent and this makes the head of the NGO reconsider if he still wants to help them or try another community.

I, for one, did not lost faith yet and I believe that the entire situation might change with baby steps. We can see indeed an improvement but there is still a long way until we will reach the level of living that would suit everyone.

 

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