Three grantees of the Roma Education Fund (REF) received top prizes for their innovative work at the European Commission’s Roma Integration Award Ceremony in October.
Among the four REF-supported nominees competing for recognition – Kosovo’s Voice of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians NGO provides educational services, FYR Macedonia’s Ambrela focuses on social inclusion and education, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Otaharin concentrates on training programs, and Serbia’s CSO Hands of Friendship runs toy libraries and Mothers’ Clubs – three won awards. As NGOs working with one of Europe’s most vulnerable and fastest-growing populations that often has little access to formal education, these Roma-led organizations are supported by Roma Education Fund’s comprehensive models to expand access to preschool education, avoid early school leaving in primary education, expand access to secondary and higher education and also provide second chance programs to adults.
Background of REF-supported nominees for the Roma Integration Awards
Established in 2005 Bosnia’s Otaharin (awarded) works as a citizens’ association for the promotion of Roma integration, providing a multitude of services to improve and expand participation of Roma children in education by offering enrollment assistance, parent meetings, and activities that raise awareness on the importance of education. Additionally, workshops and trainings are held in areas of peer education, non-violent communication, and pedagogical classes. Projects have resulted in a 75% school re-enrollment for children who had not been able to finish up the previous school year due to a few months of absenteeism, a 95% increase of those successfully finishing primary education, a reduction in class absences by 50%, and at least 48 children enrolled in the Preschool Education Program.
Comprised on field-research and daily contact with the community, FYR Macedonia’s Ambrela (awarded) translates community needs to development projects in three main areas: ensuring enrollment to institutionalized early childhood development services, integrating classrooms to involve Roma and non-Roma parents, and empowering families, particularly women, to understand the importance of preschool. Projects have resulted in 744 participants spanning the completion of 11 community events, over 100 children aged 3-6 enrolled in kindergarten, and 1,487 families visited for vaccinations.
Serbia’s Hands of Friendship (awarded) aims to improve access to early childhood education through of formal education, alternative early childhood programs, and by developing the capacities of mothers within the family. Evaluation of the program found major positive impacts after the first phase including improved position of Roma women in the community, improved patience among children, and increased attendance rate in preparatory pre-school programs by 30%, up to 72%. The program serves more than 350 Roma mothers and over 500 Roma children aged 0-7.