July 28, 2011
Yesterday, Policy Center for Roma and Minorities and the British Embassy staff in Bucharest chose to celebrate ‘one year to go’ to the London Olympics with the Roma community in Ferentari, one of the most deprived districts of Bucharest. The community faces significant problems from discrimination, unemployment, crime and drug addiction, but has turned to sport in response.
In order to tackle these issues and to answer to some of ghetto’s social needs, Policy Center for Roma and Minorities opened in October 2010, the Alternative Education Club at School no. 136. The project brings new prospects and possibilities to the children in the ghetto to compete in football, basketball, athletics and street dance. Policy Center for Roma and Minorities and the Embassy organised a street party where Romania’s Olympic medallists and sports champions took part in demonstrations and competitions with local children. Embassy staff judged a ‘Ferentari’s got talent’ street dance contest, and local boys ran rings round Ambassador Martin Harris on an improvised football pitch.
There could not have been a better demonstration of the London 2012 motto that ‘sport is for all’. Musician, Damian Drăghici, Grammy award winner in 2006, Marian Simion, former box world champion, Ionela Țârlea and Violeta Beclea, olympic medalists, Virgil Stănescu, captain of the basketball national team and the street-dance band, Trouble Crew, were among the participants at the event.
The event is part of the REACT campaign, implemented in Romania and Italy for Policy Center for Roma and Minorities and supported by the European Commission. It was organised under the umbrella of the Alternative Education Club, that is financed by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Bucharest, the Soros Foundation in Romania, the European Commission and the Roma Education Fund.
REACT is a pilot awareness raising campaign that focuses on the active participation of Roma and non-Roma citizens in the civic life, which is being developed by three NGOs in Romania, Italy, Bulgaria and Albania under the umbrella of the European Roma Grassroots Organization (ERGO).
While the NGOs in Bulgaria and Albania are focused on direct interventions, Policy Center for Roma and Minorities is developing in Romania and Italy an awareness campaign designed to challenge the negative attitudes towards Roma through a visible approach. The main instruments used are films, documentaries, sports and education as a means of stimulating active participation.