Local activities with migrants and minorities in Romania

1. The groupsWhatsApp Image 2020-07-26 at 19.54.36

Migrants – we started with 7 migrants from Nepali, in 2019, but we lost them in 2020 as most of them left Romania. So we continued at the end of 2020 with another group of 11 migrants, from Nepali too. All of them are males, come here for work – recruited by different HR agencies. All of them lives in rural areas and come from big families (having between 3 and 8 children), with a very low level of income. or almost all the money earned in Romania that they send to their families in Nepali represent the only income.

The age range is between 23-45 years old. All of them are religious persons and very hard worker, so it was a really challenge for us to find a proper period to work with them, as they used to work 12-14 hours daily, 7 days a week and we needed to develop only face to face activities because they hadn’t neither sills, nor devices proper for on-line environment. So we developed most of the activities on Sunday afternoons, also during different feasts (as second day of Christmas and Easter).WhatsApp Image 2021-05-13 at 19.30.53 (1)

Minorities – we worked with 23 persons from Roma minority, living in Vâlcea County – Călimănești – Jiblea Veche district – a very pauper area, where most inhabitants are Roma people with a very low level of income, consisting mainly in social aid and other public subventions.

There were 4 men and 17 women, aged between 26 – 54 years old. Only 3 of them (2 men and one woman) were employed at that moment, but in seasonal jobs. 12 persons (1 man and 11 women) are on relief, 4 have an allowance for unemployed persons and 2 women have allowance for new-born children. Basically the level of income is less than 200 Euro/family member. 3 women graduated high school (but only one has a certificate (Artium Baccalauren). 7 persons graduated gymnasium school (8 classes), 6 have only primary school (4 classes) and the other 5 abandoned gymnasium in different classes. 12 women are single mothers (3 of them have more than 3 children with 2 or 3 different fathers). Only one women lives with her family (but she is a single mother with 4 children) in her own house, the others share the house with other families (parents, brothers/sisters etc.)

2 Particularities of the tailored learning program

Migrants – first group – as we mentioned we worked with two group of migrants. In the first group it was difficult to communicate because they had a very low level of English (and didn’t speak Romanian at all) so we started with activities that didn’t involve a high level of verbal communication: drawing and cooking. Then we support participants in writing different memories (in their language, then they translated the texts using Google translator) and developing a diary – as a tangible result of the whole activity. The whole program took five days, about 6-8 hours daily. We worked only on Sundays because it was their only free day. They also had ”homeworks”  different tasks to accomplish between the sessions.WhatsApp Image 2020-07-26 at 19.55.02

Day one – drawing. We showed some images/cliparts (a house, a natural landscape, a family etc.) and asked participants to draw a memory about their past (childhood, parents, school) They had Nepali folk music at the background. All of them chose memories related to their birthplace (they come from the same village), parents and brothers/sisters. Then we lead a reflection process about the reason they chose a particular memory (we used visual elements as question marks and written text like ”Who”, ”Where”, ”Why” etc.) and we discovered they had strong connections with families, for them family is the most important value in life. We gave them a ”homework”  to find (on Internet) pictures and movies from Nepali and to select 10 of them that have the strongest emotional impact on them.

Day two – cooking. As most of them selected pictures/movies related to food (particularly this channel)  we organize the second workshop about food. Participants cooked together traditional food from Nepal and then we asked them to write a memory related to that food (they wrote in Nepali language and then we translated with google). We underlined once again their strong connection with their families. We lead the reflection session on the topic of food as a binder that connects people and facilitates intercultural activities. As a homework they were asked to write an essay (in their language, then translated with google) with the title ”the taste of my childhood”. They described the dish, the person (in all cases it was about a woman, mother or grandmother), their emotions, the feelings (taste, smell) and why that certain memory is so important for them.

IMG_20210306_140359Day three – Learning. As all of them had a low level of education (just primary school, because their families couldn’t afford to send them to gymnasium that was in a different town) we used the exercise ”That time I learned…” So we as participants to recall moments/periods/events in their lives when they learned something important – and we underlined that they didn’t need to mention formal education from school. In order to make the connection, to build a bridge between past and present (their lives as migrant workers) we asked them to mention 7 learning experiences from their life in Nepal and 3 since they come in Romania. Finally we created a ”tree of knowledge” we draw a tree on a big flipchart paper and participants wrote their learning experiences on the branches. The reflection session was focused on the importance of each learning experience – even is just about how to cut tomatoes for a salat – is important not only for us but also for others. As a homework they had a more complex task, that involved interaction with their Romanian co-workers: to select a Romanian teammate, teach him something and learn something from him.

IMG_20210306_134615Day four – Diary. In fact the diary was started with in the first workshop, with the drawn memories, then participants wrote there all exercises, stories and drawings. We gave them a notebook (with 50 pages, having their written name and the visual elements of the project on the cover) and explained them that ”this is your baggage for the travel among memories we will have together next weeks”. In this session we showed participants how to keep a daily diary to note their feelings, emotions and learning experiences. They wrote about the interaction with their Romanian colleagues and learning/teaching experiences shared. Most of these experiences were about Romanian/Nepali words, songs and dances. One participant (his name is Sarwan, he was the most intelligent and with the best English level) learned a Romanian recipe (”sarmale”, a kind of meat and cabbage rolls) and taught a Nepali recipe (”samosa with potatoes”). We leaded the reflection process on the feelings and emotions we experience when we write in a diary. The homework was to write at least 2-3 rows every day, in the diary, the next week.

IMG_20210313_165201Day five – Our stories. This day was planned for writing the screenplay for a digital story but, as we understood is not possible to have a digital story we decided to replace it with a simple written story. In fact it was like the souvenir booklets children used to have few years ago (before Internet appeared) – we explained to participants how to create a story (in the notebook we gave them in the first day) combining words, drawings, pictures – focused on the big change they made in tehri lives when they come in Romania as migrant workers. We guided them in the narration and writing process, take into account all the stories and drawings made in previous workshops and homeworks. The reflection was focused on the following questions: ”Did you enjoy to remember and tell your story?” ”How did you feel during sharing your story with other participants? And listening to their stories?” ”What did you learn (about yourself/others) by telling your story/listening to the stories of others”, ”How difficult was for you the whole process?” Then we applied the evaluation tools described in the next paragraphs.

Migrants – second group. In the second group the communication was much easier, as all of them had at least basic English knowledge, also most of them new some Romanian words. We follow the same format (5 workshops, 6-8 hours each) and the same homeworks but the total period was much longer, as it wasn’t possible to work with all for 5 consecutive weeks. In fact the structure of the workshops was similar – we just replace the workshop from the second day (cooking) with one about digital stories – that too place in the last day. So we had: Day 1 – Drawing, Day 2 – Learning, Day three – Diary, Day four – Our stories and Day five – Making a digital story.WhatsApp Image 2021-05-13 at 19.31.11 (1)

Minorities – for them we applied exactly the same methodology as for the second group of migrants. The difference was only in leading the narration/writing process, as we recommended them to build their stories around a learning experience.

The reflection and evaluation processes took place in the same way for all groups.

3. Evaluation tools used

We used the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale for evaluation the level of self esteem at the beginning and at the end of the workshops. It was very difficult to explain it to migrants, especially from the first group, so only for this activity we asked the help of another migrant living in our town, a man from India who is running businesses here for more than 15 years.

So in the first day he supported us with the translation of the items directly in Nepali language. For minority group we translated it in Romanian.WhatsApp Image 2021-05-13 at 19.30.39 (1)

After each workshop we had a reflection session when participants were supported to meditate on the whole experience and self assess their evolution.

 – general and psychological tests and reasons for their selection (for example in case of African migrants (both in Sweden and Italy) is many cases they experienced serious trauma due to civil war and in this case is recommended to assess the posttraumatic stress, in case of Roma minorities from Romania is important to assess the level of self esteem and self trust (as these characteristics are very low particularly among low qualified Roma adults) etc.

4. Successfully elements and obstacles

WhatsApp Image 2021-05-13 at 19.31.25 (1)We were forced to change the approach many times, mainly due to the characteristic of the target groups and to the pandemic context. As it wasn’t possible to organize online sessions with migrants we tried to develop mainly outside activities.

Also we need to adapt our methods for the needs of a target group with very low verbal communication skills (in a foreign language) so we used

Then we support participants in developing a diary – as a tangible result of the whole activity (the plan was to develop digital stories with them but it wasn’t possible mainly because of their very low digital skills, then due to the Covid crisis that basically interrupted our activities)