Twenty-eight young Roma people came together in August 2011 for the first ever Roma Pride Summer Camp where they learned about their language, history, role models and achievements, in an effort to build their sense of civic duty and social responsibility.
The Roma people are Europe's largest minority, suffering from illiteracy, unemployment, poverty and discrimination. The Open Society Institute decided to strengthen their outreach efforts with the Roma community beyond the scholarships, internships and training opportunities they've been facilitating. They had found that the benefits for these young Roma were not being reflected in the rest of the Roma community:
Too many young Roma today do know enough about their own history, achievements, and identity to develop a sense of pride regarding their heritage. Few schools currently teach Roma history and language. On top of this, mainstream society—supported by the educational system—focuses on assimilation, denying young Roma the opportunity to explore their own ethnicity and creating an environment that rewards them for suppressing their heritage. It has to be mentioned that pride does not come only with knowing your language and history but also knowing other people you can identify yourself with. Outside of their families and communities, many young Roma do not often have many Roma role models to look up to. This is also a big reason why many of them are not part of the Roma cause.
So they brought about the Barvalipe Roma Pride Summer Camp in Budapest, where 28 former beneficiaries of their programs came together to learn about each other, about their differences and similarities as Roma youth from across borders and nations. This next video shows an overview of the Summer Camp and interviews with participants who explain what impact the camp had for them:
Barvalipe participant Alina Serban was interviewed in RomaWoman.org where she explained why the experience was so important for her: it brought together so many different people who also happen to be Roma. That is what being Roma is about for her, not just one single identity, not one single stereotype:
Violeta Naydenova is the program coordinator for Open Society Foundations Roma Initiatives and was the Barvalipe camp director. She described the impact of one of the summer camp's activities where the 20 Euro camp fee the participants had to pay was used to buy sewing machines for a charity serving Roma women and children as well as school supplies for an impoverished community:
I was honored to read in their camp evaluations that this action was one of the most liked, following the Roma history and language classes, debate sessions, and trip to Auschwitz. It proved that once people are given the possibility to learn about their heritage many people embrace it, like it, and feel proud about it.