Elda Media, a 9-year old Roma girl from Lezha takes pride at the dress she has designed and made herself with recyclable materials. She is one of 300 children from Roma and non-Roma communities who attended the summer camps organized with the support of ‘Leave No One Behind’ programme this July.
“I am so happy when I learned about the summer camp. My sisters and I, had so much fun. The catwalk fashion show of dresses made of recyclable materials is what I enjoyed the most” she says with her eyes sparkling of joy.
The mixed summer camps consisting of Roma and Egyptian children and others offered various social-cultural activities and services, aiming to further integrate Roma and Egyptian children through extra-curricular activities, so that they can stay abreast with education opportunities especially in the vacuum of other opportunities for summer activities for these children.
Xhimileta, Elda’s mother says: “They couldn’t wait to tell all about what’s happened there during the day”, she says. “I was so pleased my children could learn and have fun too. This also provided a good opportunity for me to work while they were away. Otherwise, I would have no other choice but to take them along with me all summer long while I work”.
A 2015 UNDP commissioned study on the socio-demographic and economic profile of Roma and Egyptians based on the 2011 Census, indicates that “At 16 years old, 96% of the girls and 68% of the boys have dropped out of school. This represents a challenge for the social inclusion agenda which aims to have more Roma children enroll in schools but also be able to keep them in education until 16 years old when they have begun to attend”.
A similar study on the social exclusion profile of Roma and Egyptian population revealed that “Poor Roma and Egyptians parents cannot escape the education trap. Besides an exclusionary school environment, there is segregation and school bullying.”
The summer camp programme was tailored specifically to address these concerns and create good models of integration through coexistence and in close collaboration with the public schools/ multidisciplinary centers, children and parents.
One of the parents, Hekuran the father of Asia from Lezha said he appreciates the fact that his daughter made new friends in the camp, including Roma friends, and was taught this way to treat all friends equally without discrimination, as we all should.
Whereas, Majlinda Xhafa, one the teachers who facilitated the camp said: ‘’To provide such leisure activities for all children without distinction, is not a mere contribution to the community and their children, including R&E community, it is a demonstration of civilization that needs to be promoted further.”
Leave No One Behind Programme in Albania is supported financially by the Government of Switzerland. The programme amongst others, works to empower vulnerable people so that they have equal access to public services and opportunities, and a voice in public decision-making affecting their lives.
One of the programme components called: ‘Integrated Social Services for Sustainable Social and Economic Development of Roma and Egyptians’ is implemented in partnership with ‘Help for the Children/Ndihme për Fëmijët’ Foundation. This component tackles the issue of enrollment of Roma and Egyptian children in primary schools and their integration, so that drop outs are reduced. The programme is pursuing a holistic approach addressing issues related to employment, income generation and housing targeting Roma and Egyptian families through integrated services. This is done in partnership with local government units and social care service providers, Roma and Egyptian communities and NGOs, striving not only to create an enabling environment at home and at schools for these children, but to integrate those communities in a sustainable manner.