Continually, we are bombarded with negatively connotated facts, data’s or stories about how life functions in the Roma Community. The interesting fact is that all these information is presented on such terms not by the Roma Community itself but mostly by the rest of us. We evaluate their culture and mindset upon our own expectations and beliefs. This way, subconsciously we encourage a wrong approach on how we work with Roma Community. What would happen if another approach is taken.
Albert Einstein stated that: “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”. As such, at ADRA, we choose to take Einstein’s quote under serious consideration and that is why we began teaching them not upon our mindset and understanding but upon what they seem to be gifted at. In other words, if someone liked proactive learning we provided them with such a proactive course. If someone had a certain ability we provided all the tools to encourage and improve that ability to the point where it could become a tool to empower them and integrate them within the Albanian society. In other words, ADRA Albania began a pilot project where in order to achieve the core objective of developing and empowering the Roma Community we decided to do it upon their terms and not what we saw as logical.
An amazing outcome of such a approach is Izaura Gatali. She is one of the ladies in the Roma Community in Fushe-Kruja and well-known for being very good at knitting. As such, we thought that a professional course on tailoring adapted to her specific needs would help her develop her abilities further. The beginning of the course was a bit difficult for Izaura and the other ladies of the community but soon things began to change. The concern of everyone dropping the courses half way through was substituted by the pleasure of providing everything needed to keep encouraging these girls to absorb the skills and make use of them. The girls became so involved with what they were being taught, to the point where the need of a facilitator was no more necessary. As a matter of fact, regardless of the pregnancy Izaura was going through she never missed any classes and even asked permission to further practice and sew clothes even on Sundays.
Furthermore, Marsela Gatali is another example of how individuals of the Roma Community have not only accepted to learn but actually excelled at what they were being taught as long as this was done in consideration of their personalities and abilities. Within about 3 months of hairdressing course she was asked by the members of the community to prepare the bride of an upcoming wedding and many other members of the community. Marsela states that now I can do more with what I know and I always felt like I was meant for this profession but just had no means to do what I felt like.
I would like to conclude everything by stating that up to this point, individuals attending the courses shaped upon their specific abilities have not only surprised us but fortunately proved all our fears and concerns wrong. They have shown us that with the right approach, they excel and upon this have made us understand that we no more need to change their perspective according to our understanding but simply open new trails to enable them to develop in the direction they choose to.