Global Leader for Young Children

Whilst working for the police, I was aware of the power and opportunities I had to touch hearts and minds of small children and young people. From inspiring children as ‘a hero in a uniform’ to mentoring of young people and steering them towards new career paths; I have always been keen on using my influence to help little members of our society.

When I have heard, for the first time, about the opportunity offered by a World Forum Foundation through their Global Leaders programme; it didn’t think twice about applying.

“Global Leaders for Young Children is a World Forum Foundation project with the goal of improving life chances for young children by developing early childhood leaders who can become effective change agents and advocates for quality early childhood development in their home countries and regions.” (https://worldforumfoundation.org/global-leaders/2019-2020-global-cohort)

In April 2019, I have attended World Forum on Early Care and Education in Macau. I found the Forum an unforgettable experience; meeting amazing people from all around the world, learning from prominent Leaders and inspiring caregivers and learning to new skills.

 

The next few months I will dedicate to studying SECD (Science of Early Childhood Development) and then I will start developing an innovative project to help children all around the world. To be continued …

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Tour across the Czech republic

To be able to work effectively with any community, it is essential to have the most up to date, relevant and factual information concerning that particular community. It is impossible to work effectively with people if we don’t know what are the concerns, feelings and opinion within that community.

For this reason, I have decided to utilise my holiday time in the Czech Republic to visit places and speak to people to find out what works well, what could be improved and what are the main concerns. During the month of August, I have done the following:

 

What are my findings? There three mains strands that I was interested in:

  1. Living conditions: Many people living in poverty are experiencing difficulties in escaping from the ‘vicious circle’ of poverty. Shelters and hostels owned by private landlords and by public authorities are in very bad condition, often with serious constructional deficiencies, broken windows, inadequate amenities, infestation. There is no control mechanism in place to monitor and enforce adequate living condition for people. I met families with 4 children living in one bedroom flat with a fire-wood burner as the only meaning of heating and cooking. People living in such conditions understandably lose any drive to succeed and often manage their depressions and frustration by substance misuse, gambling and complete withdrawal from social interaction.
  2. Community cohesion: Even though it appears on the surface that Roma and non-Roma live in relative cohesion, unfortunately from what I saw and heard it appears that the gap between both communities is actually expanding! Both sides are blaming the other side for not trying hard enough to change the status quo and often I met with apathy to actually agglutinate the gap.
  3. Health condition of children living in poverty: I have recently decided to focus on improving health conditions of children and young people living in poverty. From my experience, but also from speaking to health professionals and schools in the UK it is apparent that there are many children with unidentified health problems, including bad sight and hearing, deteriorating teeth, rat bites and infections. I have conducted a research in the Czech Republic and there are couple of people conducting a research in Slovakia. In the next phase, I am planning to create a system of systematic medical help in both countries, providing medical supply and medical services, and providing relevant information to parents.

In conclusion I would add, it had been financially and timely exhausting month (this wasn’t part of any project, it was merely my own initiative) however it was highly rewarding and humble experience. I was honoured to meet lots of kind people that were willing to spare their time to meet with me. In particular I would like to express my gratitude to:

  • Martin Dudi and his family from Ceske Budejovice,
  • Michal Mizigar from Pisek,
  • Iveta Bilkova and Stefan Olah from Liberec,
  • Jana Horvathova and Tomas Scuka from Brno
  • Petr Mati from Bilina
  • Vladimir Hanzel, Eugen Kukla and his wife Nadia Rovderova from Prague,
  • Organisation ROMEA for involving me in BARUVAS project.

K tomu, aby člověk byl schopen pracovat efektivně s jakoukoliv komunitou, je třeba mít aktuální a správné informace, které se dotýkají té dané komunity. Je to téměř nemožne pracovat efektivně s lidmi, o kterých nevíme nic o tom co jich trápí, o jejich citech a názorech.

Z tohoto důvodu jsem se rozhodl využít mé dovolené v ČR a navštívit různá místa a mluvit s lidmi. Cílem bylo zjistit co funguje dobře, co by se dalo zlepšit a co lidi nejvíce trápí. Během srpna jsem podniknul následující:

 

Jaké jsou závěry z mé cesty? Zajímal jsem se převážne o následující oblasti:

  • Životní podmínky: Spousta lidí žijících v chudobě je prakticky neschopna se vymaňit ze začarovaného kruhu chudoby. Ubytovny (jak ve vlastnictví města tak i v rukou soukromých subjektů) jsou většinou v dezolátním stavu, často s vážnými konstrukčními nedostatky, rozbitými okny, nevhodným sociálním zařízením a infestací. Příjde mi, že neexistují žádné kontrolní mechanismy, které by pomohli monitorovat a prosazovat adekvátní životní podmínky pro lidi žijící v těchto ubytovnách. Potkal jsem se s rodinami, které mají 4 děti a všichni žijí v malém bytě (jeden pokoj a jedna kuchyň), kde se topí a vaří pouze v kamnech na dřevo. Lidi žíjící v těchto podmínkách samozřejmě často ztrácí naději na změnu a často řeší své frustrace a deprese návykovými látkami, hraním automatů a ůplnou resignací a sociálním vyloučením.
  • Komunitní soudružnost: I přes to, že se napovrchu společnosti zdá, že Romové i ne-Romové žijí v relativním klidu a souladu, bohůžel z toho co jsem viděl a slyšel mi přijde, že se mezera mezi oběma komunitama rozšiřuje. Obě strany viní tu druhou stranu z toho, že se dostatečně nesnaží změnit současnou situaci a často jsem se setkal i s určitou apatií tuto mezeru stmelit.
  • Zdravotní stav dětí a mládeže žijící v chudobě: Před nedávnem jsem se rozhodl soustředit se na zlepšování zdravotní situace dětí a mládeže žijící v chodobě. Z mé zkušenosti, ale také z rozhovorů, které jsem měl se zdravotníky a učiteli v Anglii, je zřejmé, že je spousta dětí s neodhalenými zdravotními problemami (špatný sluch, špatný zrak, rozpadající se zuby, kousance od krys, infekce atd.). Během mých cest jsem podnikl průzkum situace v ČR a pár mých kolegů dělá průzkum v SR. V další fazy plánuji vytvořit systém systematické zdravotní pomoci v obou zemích (dodávka zdravotního materiálu a léků, poskytování akutní zdravotní péče a osvěta).

 

Na závěr bych doplnil, že i přes to, že to byl velice náročný měsíc (toto turné nebylo součástí žádného projektu, byla to moje soukromá iniciativa), byla to velice přínosná a příjemná zkušenost. Měl jsem tu čest potkat spoustu lidí, kteří byli ochotni mi věnovat svůj čas. Zejména bych chtěl poděkovat:

  • Martinovi Dudiovi a jeho rodině z Českých Budějovic,
  • Michalovi Mižigárovi z Písku,
  • Ivetě Bílkové a Štefanovi Olahovi z Liberce,
  • Janě Horváthové a Tomášovi Ščukovi z Brna,
  • Petrovi Mati z Bíliny,
  • Vladimirovi Hanzelovi, Eugenovi Kuklovi and jeho manželce Nadie Rovderové z Prahy,
  • Organizaci ROMEA za zapojení do projektu BARUVAS.
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Turne in the Czech Republic

During August, I plan to take a tour of the Czech Republic, during which I visit various cities and excluded localities. The lectures will mainly focus on inclusive education, good practices from the UK and the health status of children and youth in socially excluded localities.
If you are interested in meeting or arranging a meeting, write me a message or e-mail: contact@petrtorak.com.

Program:
14.8. – Prague
15.8. – Plzen and Karlovy Vary Region
17.8. – Ostrava and Brno (at 18:00 I will be at the Museum of Romani Culture)
18.8. – Brno and Vsetin
21.8. – Ústí nad Labem and its surroundings
22.8. – Liberec
24.8. – Budejovice and its surroundings
27.-30. – Vysocina region

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Rom vs cigan (cikan)

During my visit to the Czech Republic in December 2017 I have given an interview to Seznam.cz (see HERE). The interview was named as “I consider the word ‘cikan’ as a derogatory word”.

The interview had sparked a debate, with a majority people expressing their wish to be named ‘Roma’ rather than cikan. However, there are still lots of people that disagree and are of the opinion that all Roma should be called cikan, because that is what they have always called us.

It is therefore important to explain the exact meaning and the wrong use of the word ‘cikan’ (sometimes mistakenly translated as Gypsy).

Since the 12th Century, Roma in Europe have been called ‘cikani’. The word ‘cikan’ comes from Greek word „Athinganoi“. This name was originally used to name members of marginalised christian sect, believed to be involved in black magic. The word has always had a pejorative character. In Romani language there is no word ‘cikan’, we have always called ourselves Roma (translated as a man or a human). As such, the word ‘cikan’ is an exonym that with pejorative connotation.

Since then the word ‘cikan’ is connected with people that are living nomadic lifestyle, are stealing, begging or are considered maladjusted. In Otto’s dictionary, the word ‘cikan’ is equivalent to a liar, thief and bandit.

In 1971, Roma from all Europe met at the first Romani conference in London. During the meeting Roma agreed that in official language we shall be named as Roma.  

Throughout the history, societies have adapted to changes and depending on social or political situation changed names of geographical places or ethnic groups. Here are some examples:

  • During the 1950s and 1960s, Malcolm X objected to the word ‘Negro‘ because it’s association with the long history of slavery, segregation, and discrimination that treated African Americans as second class citizens, or worse. Malcolm X preferred Black to Negro, but also started using the term Afro-American.
  • Romanians used to be called by German word ‘Vlach‘ but the exonym has never been accepted by native Romanians.
  • Hungarian retreated from using pejorative exonym ‘Tóth‘ and call Slovak people with their endonym Szlovák. Slowly it became more of a slang term for a person who doesn’t understand or who’s stupid.
  • Although the name ‘Eskimo’ is commonly used in Alaska to refer to all Inuit and Yupik people of the world, this name is considered derogatory in many other places because it was given by non-Inuit people and was said to mean “eater of raw meat.”

So why should I allow to be called cikan?

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Fundraising in the UK for Roma scholarship programme

It is a comprehensive program of support for students who, in addition to direct financial support, can get a mentor, contribute to a training course, take a traineeship in companies, meet on weekend motivation courses with other Roma students from all over the Czech Republic and volunteer in Roma organizations. It makes sense.
An absence of opportunities for direct support to talented Romani college and high school students has led the ROMEA organization to create this unique five-year project. 

The purpose of the program is to build up the Romani middle class in the long term,which will benefit not just the Romani community, but also the rest of society.

The aim of my call is to support more students with their studies. During this school year the organization ROMEA, o.p.s.  was contacted by more than 130 applicants for our scholarships, but we only have enough funding to support 60 of them.  
 

For that reason, we accepted the challenge of the US-based Bader Philantrophies Foundation, which has said that if we can raise CZK 125 000, they will match it. 

I would like help with this campaign as an ambassador for the program and I believe that together with you we can achieve this. If we succeed we will support a minimum of 10 more students with their studies as well as other forms of support.  They will be able to afford other training courses or attend weekend meetings with other Romani students from all over the Czech Republic. 

I had the opportunity to attend one such meeting myself, as you can see in these photographs. I met many interesting Romani high school and college students from different disciplines there, such as medicine, psychology, the natural sciences, information technology, and college preparatory students. These are skilled students from impoverished families who want to achieve more in their lives. They are motivated to study. The more we support them, the better will be the position of the Romani community in the Czech Republic. 

 My target amount is CZK 30 000. If I can raise this amount with your aid, Bader Philanthropies will turn it into CZK 60 000. 
That’s worth it, wouldn’t you agree?
 

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This program offers scholarships in open academic scholarships to Roma students of secondary and higher vocational schools who are citizens of the Czech Republic. 
 Eligible applicants must be admitted or taught at a secondary school with a GCSE or a higher vocational school in the Czech Republic. Priority is given to students from public schools, but also private students, state-accredited schools. Up to 20% of scholarships can be made by distance learning students. 
 The project also includes support for Roma scholars of the RMUSP Scholarship Program, from which successful applicants receive financial support. Our program does not provide finance to these students, but provides and provides students with tutoring or various training courses to help them prepare for exams or write their diploma work. They also provide internships in state, non-profit organizations, as well as in commercial entities. 
 For both groups of students, joint weekend meetings are also planned to support Roma identity, self-awareness, but also other areas useful for their professional and personal growth. The meeting will be led by Roma personalities and professionals in their fields (eg journalists, artists, people working in public administration, etc.). 
 The aim of the project is to support approximately 100 Roma students annually – of which 50 secondary school students, 10 students of higher vocational schools. 40 university students will offer tutoring and further education.

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 To donate, click HERE.
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