During a matchmaking event in Romania in November 2013, the Romanian NGO Association for Inclusion and Social Development Gorj and the Nordstrand Rotary Club of Norway met for the first time and got the opportunity to discuss and explore opportunities for joint cooperation. Half a year later, the mobility project “Together We Are Stronger” was a reality. The project was funded through the Bilateral grants of the Romanian NGO Programme under the EEA Grants.
The main objectives of the project were to strengthen the present and future collaboration between international partners and the exchange of knowledge, interests and experiences. During the project, the partners looked for ways to mitigate specific social intervention and increasing the quality of life of Roma. So far, the project has created the basis for a strong public-private partnership, in which each partner expressed a desire to continue to develop future projects together for a better community development .
The meeting took place in May. On the first day of the visit, the Norwegians partners and the local partner met with two teachers who have published a book on Roma culture in order to discuss problems faced by Roma people. The following day, the two organisations visited two Roma communities in Gorj county, one in which the living standard of the Roma is extremely low (the community of Polovragi) and another in which the standard of living of persons of Roma ethnics is moderate (the community from Baia de Fier).
During these visits, the partners learnt more about the major challenges facing the communities. One of the major issue concern education for children. The Roma children from Polovragi are geographically segregated and often miss school because of illnesses and financial problems. Some children also do not attend school because they feel excluded for instance because of lack of clean clothes. Other issues in the community include lack of vaccination, unemployment and access to drinking water.
On the third day, a round table meeting was arranged to discuss public policies and inclusion of the Roma community. During this event, a wide range of stakeholders attended: local Roma leaders, local experts (social assistants, community nurses, sanitary mediators within the Roma communities), representatives of local public authorities and representatives of public authorities and NGOs. The objective of this seminar was to identify public/private actors and their role trying to reduce the social risk situations of the Roma community. The event was attended by more than forty people.
Afterwards, a workshop was organised in which more than twenty local Roma representatives, representatives of public authorities and NGOs attended. The objective of this workshop was to identify concrete ways of actions in order to decrease the social risk and to increase their quality of life.
As a result of the workshop, many new initiatives to develop several activities for the Roma community from Polovragi were discussed. For instance, they identified land where it would be possible to relocate Roma families from Polovragi to. They also discussed establishing a mobile medical centre, a day care center for children from the Roma community and the establishment of a handicrafts centre that can be a “living museum” where people from Roma communities could produce different objects using their skills and handicraft traditions.
In order to realise all these plans, they want to establishment a local NGO so that the community can attract European funds. The partners also had constructive discussions with members of the Rotary Club of Gorj which has agreed to support them with future projects. They have also discussed with the program operator what kind of initiatives they could apply for from the NGO Fund of the EEA Grants. They have also asked for the support of the President of the National Agency for Roma People.
The mobility project has established the first foundation of a strong public-private partnership. The partners have expressed the desire to continue to develop together future projects to build a better community for the Roma. They will now focus on developing a good application together.
Thorleif Hauge from Nordstrand Rotary Club was appalled to see the living conditions for the Roma community in Polagravi and the lack of local government initiatives to help. “But with our combination of management initiative, concrete plans and possible financing we might make a huge contribution.”