Where I come from, children have a “smooth” entry to school and study with no discrimination. School is supposed to be the start of what is meant to be a fun, free space for children to learn, play and grow, but sadly this doesn’t come easily for some children in Romania. Before coming to Bucharest, I came with almost minimal knowledge of the challenges that the Roma children face.
Save the Children Romania, or Salvati Copiii, has undertaken a project for the past three years that includes “Raising children in a stigma-free society”. This project’s main goal is to reduce discrimination amongst two groups of children: Roma children and children with mental health issues.
Our day began at the Salvati Copiii with a quick presentation on their current project. During this time I learnt a lot about the kind of work that Salvati Copiii is doing and the harsh realities of the situation Roma children face. The staff at Salvati Copiii were very welcoming, and we had a lovely lunch together—after which the real adventure began.
School no. 141 will always hold a special place in my heart, along with the beautiful children I met. We were greeted with the warmest smiles, both from teachers and students, and a loud “Buna ziua” (hello in Romanian). I knew these kids were special. They were doing artwork and were more than happy to allow us to help with colouring (reminding me of how rusty my colouring skills were).
I met a beautiful little girl called Francesca, whom I was helping and I asked little Francesca, 8, what her favourite thing is about coming to school. She replied, “Mathematics! That’s the best part of school.” Francesca has dreams of becoming a doctor, and with the foundation that Salvati Copiii is giving to these wonderful children, no dream is small or insignificant. We also visited her home to see the living conditions there. It was a simple, humble home with two rooms.
After colouring time, they sang a few songs in Romanian, and we got to take back with us a few of the beautiful caterpillar artworks, after which it was time for the kids to say goodbye.
We had the opportunity to meet with the school’s director, who had her story to share about how she herself was a student at this school, and now she wants to give back with the hope that the children will turn out to be good. The schoolteacher who told us that children are her passion was very much involved with the kids in their artwork. She said: “All the children’s individual success stories are my personal satisfaction as a teacher.”
Today has left a lasting impression in my heart. My eyes have been opened to a new world, and I have gained knowledge about the realities of the Roma children. With this knowledge, I am able to educate others and do my part. Thank you to Salvati Copiii for having us, the IKEA Foundation for the work they are doing to help with fundraising to support these projects, and Cristina Tanase from Salvati Copiii for taking us around. This is only the beginning of what I know is going to be an unforgettable journey.