Water Mosaic echoes from home

pondering the mysteries, simplicity, and humor of life

Friday, February 04, 2005

The Decade of Roma Inclusion

Eight former communist countries in central and eastern Europe pledged to improve the plight of Roma (gypsies), the continent's poorest, biggest as well as youngest minority. Their plans spreads over the next 10 years. In a declaration signed by 5 heads of government and 3 deputy prime ministers, the alliance pledged to abolish discrimination and heal the rift that separates the Roma from the rest of the Europeans. The meeting was held for one-day in Sofia with the help of one man, international financier and philanthropist George Soros. On a side note, Soros has donated more than 30 million (23 million euros) to the Roma Education Fund. After these politicians signed it, the statement was handed to a seven-year-old gypsy girl named Bojidara, who plans to keep a journal of the main events in her life until 2015 to gauge whether they will keep their promise.

Romania is the country with the largest Roma population in Europe. 7 in 10 Roma do not have access to running water, while 8 in 10 cannot afford prescription drugs. Finally 2 in 10 have actually finished primary school, one survey found.

My story has somewhat deep roots in the country of Romania. Near the end of my stay, for the second time, I actually felt like an eastern European (good thing I didn't say I look like one because I sure don't look anything like an eastern European). I've eaten their food, walked their streets, spoken their languge (poorly, remind you), lived in their flats, drank their wine and danced among their rich traditions. While over there I incountered many Roma. Many were beggars and lived on the streets, one of which was named Elvis. He was a small boy who suddenly showed up during on of our VBS days. We gave him a VBS shirt and we all hugged on him and played games together. He couldn't speak much English, but had a million dollar smile. Even though he was dirty and smelled, the group loved him as their own. I hope these countries keep their promise and bring societal freedoms as well as healing to these people.