Tuesday, 3 December 2013

November in the Roma community of Fushe Kruja

On 29th of November ADRA staff paid a friendly visit to the Roma community of Fushe Kruja, just to have a chat and visit all the families that live there.
For two months we have been going almost every day to the community to talk with the parents about their children’s progress at school, health, work and many other topics related to the Reflect project. The work in the community has been very intense and all families have been very kind and open towards us. This is why, on 29th of November, while everybody in Albania was celebrating the Independence Day, we decided to go and spend some hours in the community. 
Mira and Marsela are waiting for us at the ADRA center, and together we walk towards the community. We are pretty lucky today, even though it is very cold, there is an amazingly warm sun. As soon as we arrive at the entrance of the neighborhood, two girls, Kristina 6 and Sonja 7, come running towards us totally barefoot and only with one blouse on. When we ask them if they are cold they answer smiling “No teacher, we are not cold because we are working”. We continue our journey entering in the first house of one of our women, Nila (31). Nila has 4 children, the oldest one 13 years old. Nila is washing the clothes outside in her yard and stops a little while to talk with us. She is happy to see us because she wants to express how happy she is that her son, Orgito, is going to school regularly and doing his homework without anybody’s help. Orgito is one of the youngest pupils registered at the public school in the first grade and he is an example for the other children. We ask Nila if the water she is using is warm and she replies "Yes, the water is warm but only because I am lucky to have a stove and some pieces of wood."

After Nila’s house we stop at Kristina’s house. Kristina is a 12 year old girl that was obliged to get engaged to a young boy, Berti, aged 14. Kristina has decided to break the engagement after 4 months because she didn’t like her new family. As soon as she entered their house, which is situated in the same community, her future mother in law started to treat her badly and to make her work all day long. Kristina went away after four months and went back to her parents’ house. Kristina’s parents tell us that they feel very sad and embarrassed because their daughter’s reputation is ruined and they don’t know if any other Roma boy will choose her as a bride. In most of the Roma communities, also in Fushe Kruja, girls get married at a very young age, and if they don’t get married until they are 16, this represents a problem for the girl’s family.  We ask to see Kristina, and she comes out of the house, ashamed and keeping her eyes at the ground. We hug her, tell we miss her at the school and that it would be wonderful to start school  again after four months of absence. Her eyes look at her mother who has nothing to say but she accepts to let Kristina come to school again. 
We continue our walk in the community, meeting all the children who come out of their houses, smiling and asking us “Are you coming again tomorrow?”

We stop and play with them, spending time with each of them because they need to tell us about school and holidays. It is so amazing to see how the same timid children that two years ago couldn’t even say a word in Albanian have become so alive, speaking Albanian language, hugging and expressing so many feelings without any fear or shyness.
We stop at Suela’s house, one of our best students at the ADRA centre. Suela is 16 and she got engaged last week. After getting engaged, Suela’s new family decided not to let her attend our centre anymore; according to the Roma tradition, young brides should stay home and work as much as they can to earn the respect of the new family. Suela got engaged to a boy of her age who lives in the same community, so we have big hopes to work with her husband too and invite them both to attend ADRA’s activities.

We continue to visit many other houses asking families what their planes are for the winter but, as always, they tell us that their plans change whenever there is need for money. If they have to go and buy second hand clothes or shoes, they travel to Tirana, Durres, Shkoder or even Kosovo or Greece. Anyway, in general, at least during winter, women and children stay home, in the community.

In November we see how the community awakes and we are so happy to see women, men and children we haven’t seen for months, to re-open their houses and adapt themselves again to the community life.
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