Building a Youth Center, Building Tolerance
As Eastern Romania is currently digging out of the snow, youth in Ivesti are keeping warm and busy building a center at their school in which students can work across ethnic lines to promote intercultural tolerance between Roma and non-Roma students.
Segregation among Roma and non-Roma runs deep in Romania. Through the Youth Civic Engagement and Dialogue Program, youth are given the chance to come together with a shared goal of improving their schools and communities.
The Inclusive Center for Education and Youth Socialization in Ivesti is a result of an extensive community needs assessment designed and implemented by the students. Youth designed and distributed school-wide flyers soliciting project ideas, conducted interviews with senior citizens in the community to identify their needs, and met with the mayor of Ivesti to present the project goals and request support. The community needs assessment put into practice the skills youth learned during the summer at the Community Schools Academy. During the week-long training, youth learned about team building, civic engagement, advocacy, project design, participatory needs assessment, and project management.
Following the Community Schools Academy, youth applied what they learned in their home community by forming inter-ethnic Youth Action Teams at their school and designing a project which directly addresses youth needs. The Inclusive Center for Education and Youth Socialization will provide an outdoor space at the school for youth to come together and organize community events. Students in the mechanic workshop are currently building tables, benches, and the infrastructure needed to assemble the area. Once the construction is complete, planned activities include an interschool chess competition, a cultural trivia contest, and an intercultural talent show. All events will be organized by the Youth Action Team throughout the end of the school year, and will be implemented with the support of teachers, mentors, and the involvement of other local schools.
The Youth Action Team in Ivesti is one of six other teams in Romania and two teams in Moldova working on various projects to build cross-cultural tolerance, starting first with their schools and expanding into the larger communities. All teams are currently in the beginning stages of their projects, so stay tuned to hear more about their progress.
The Youth Civic Engagement and Dialogue Program in Romania and Moldova is implemented by IREX, in partnership with Romani CRISS, and funded by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor at the U.S. Department of State.