Roma Mentor Program - School Year 2008/2009

1. The Beginning


In its current form, the mentor initiative is a pilot project that was launched in March 2006 and continues to this day. Initially, only Hungarian participants were integrated in the project; however, from 2008, the project was also launched in other European countries with a high Roma minority population, such as Slovakia, Macedonia, Romania and Bulgaria.

2. Overview of the Roma Mentor Project


The BHIM RAO Association (Borsod - Abaúj - Zemplén Megyei Hátrányos Helyzetű Ifjak (Magyarok, Romák) Azonos Szintű Oktatásáért Szociális, Kulturális és Oktatási Kiemelten Közhasznú Egyesület - Social, Cultural and Educational Association for Equal Opportunities for Vulnerable Youths (Roma and non-Roma) in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County) has set the target of exploring and researching Roma identity through art and culture with the help of funding granted by the Roma Culture Program run by the Open Society Institute (OSI). This program emphasises acceptance and recognition of Roma culture as a means for changing attitudes toward Roma in the majority population.

 

3. Aim of the Project


The key objective of the Roma Mentor Project relates to connecting experts of Roma culture to school groups or communities and encouraging children to gain deeper insight into Roma culture to raise their awareness and self-esteem; offer them the opportunity to meet proud, educated and talented Roma role models and spend their free-time in a useful way. The Roma Cultural Program hosted by OSI-Budapest and the BHIM RAO Association organised a team of Roma volunteers – which in previous years was also organised within the framework of the Roma Mentor Project – keen on mentoring and willing to dedicate 4-6 hours of their free time each month to organising and holding workshops for children in the afternoon. A professional training organisation provides pedagogical training for volunteering mentors. Mentors received a predesigned package of ideas for workshops; however, mentors and participating institutions jointly devised the final work plan.  

4. Presentation of the BHIM RAO Association


The organisation’s full name is Social, Cultural and Educational Association for Equal Opportunities for Vulnerable Youths (Roma and non-Roma) in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County. BHIM RAO stands for two things: firstly, it is made up of the first letters of the organisation’s full name, whilst it also refers to Bhim Rao Ambedkhar, the great Indian statesman who fought his way up the social ladder in India from the untouchables’ caste to Minister for Justice under Gandhi’s premiership.
Founded in 2002, the BHIM RAO Association is a priority public status non-profit organisation. The Association’s main objective involves supporting Roma and non-Roma youths with multiple disadvantages in their access to primary, secondary and higher education, and to ensure that they achieve good results in these institutions. Alongside other educational development activities, the cultural development activities we provide and the social work we engage in are aligned to our main objective, and are organised and implemented in a manner to attain the key targets we have set.
The BHIM RAO Association supports the target group in receiving quality education and vocational training by organising training courses, cultural and extra-curricular activities; establishing contacts with educational institutions and supporting the group’s empowerment. We fight against all forms of discrimination and segregation. The organisation’s strategic aim relates to implementing complex programs, which not only reach the widest possible scope of disadvantaged youths, but help lift whole families out of poverty by ensuring that children complete secondary-level education, learn a trade and obtain professional qualifications, hence building an educational system which inhibits the reproduction of employment disadvantages in Roma society.

5. Announcement of Call for Proposals


The call was announced in May 2008 and the deadline for submission was 30 June 2008. We asked applicants to submit proposals in two copies via post, as well as electronically.  
We not only announced the Roma Mentor Project via the Internet (on the websites http://www.bhimrao.hu, http://www.pafi.hu,  http://www.romnet.hu and http://www.romaweb.hu), but also in the printed press (in SANSZ, Call monitoring journals), as well as on the radio (on Radio C). Coordinators of the RMP project continuously negotiated the call for proposals with OSI associates Andrea Csanádi and Enikő Soós and compiled the call for proposals in collaboration with these OSI employees. After announcing the call, employees of the BHIM RAO Association provided ongoing information to institutions interested and representatives of such organisations.  

6. Selection of Participating Institutions


67 proposals were received following the expiry of the deadline date for submission, which we processed on an ongoing basis and registered these in a computer database. On the basis of this table, it is possible to identify that several institutions submitted proposals including several children’s groups. In view of the high number of proposals submitted, we defined the following selection criteria: 
1. Compliance with formal requirements;
2. Compliance with content-related requirements.
We then continued by assessing individual institutions (surprisingly largely awarded the same point score) preferably operating in different areas around the country. Several considerably well-written high standard proposals were submitted; however, since we could only grant funding to a maximum 10 institutions, we continued by ranking these institutions. Institutions that have been running the Roma Mentor Project ever since it was launched have become strong enough to implement mentor activities independently, which is why we instead tried to select institutions that are definitely still in need of the financial and professional support of OSI and the BHIM RAO Association.
In light of this, we selected 10 proposals in collaboration with OSI.

Institutions selected

  • Kindergarten and Primary School Core Integration Institution
  • Central Primary School and Student Hostel in Salgótarján
  • Bács Kiskun County Kindergarten, Primary School, Vocational Preparatory School, Uniform Special Education Methodology Institute and Educational Counselling Centre
  • Dr Mészáros Kálmán Primary School and Day-care Kindergarten
  • Molnár Gábor Primary School, Special Vocational School and Uniform Special Education Methodology Institute
  • Sólyom District Public Benefit Association
  • Tree-branch Circle of Friends Association
  • District Primary School and Kindergarten operating within the framework of the Ormosbánya – Rudolf District Primary School Public Education Day-care Kindergarten Institutional Management Association
  • Wesley János Kindergarten, Primary School and Vocational School
  • Kalyi Jag Roma Artistic Inter-European Integration Employment and Education Development Public Benefit Association

7. Criteria Applied to Select Mentors


After selecting the participating institutions, we had to find mentors for these institutions. Some institutions made recommendations on the potentially right mentor for their institution when they submitted their respective proposal. When selecting mentors, we equally took account of the geographical location to avoid jeopardising the program due to distance. Roma mentors were selected from the list of Roma mentors compiled by OSI and individuals in direct contact with the Association. Participating mentors all belong to the elite of the Hungarian Roma community. They are all highly respected, influential individuals dedicated to their own community and culture. Many of them are even famous in Hungary.
The BHIM RAO Association selected the right individuals on the grounds of the following three key criterions:
1. Assuming the role of a role model;
2. Breaking out of an environment similar to the one the children live in;
3. Knowledge of Roma culture (Gypsy history, art, gastronomy, traditions, etc.)
Interim changes took place, since Csaba Báder, mentor at the Wesley János Primary School, went to Bulgaria to take part in an English language course with the help of funding granted by OSI. He was replaced by Péter Bogdán, who took part in the previous mentor project, which is why his subsequent integration did not cause any problems, since he took part in the RMP training organised back in 2006. Moreover, before Csaba Báder left we asked Péter Bogdán to visit a few workshops held by Csaba in order for Péter, the students, as well as teachers to become accustomed to future changes. His personal talent and professional background made it possible for Péter to assume mentor tasks in the above-mentioned institution. 

Mentors:

  • Sándor Radics, teacher, educational consultant
  • Henrik Kállai, art teacher, cultural organiser and artist
  • Ferenc Kunhegyesi, artist
  • Ildikó Menyhért, teacher, educational consultant
  • Mrs Kiss, Anita Oláh, social pedagogue
  • Váradi Krisztina, social worker
  • Mária Ignácz, education organiser, romologist
  • László Tóth, teacher
  • Csaba Báder, social policy consultant
  • György Makula, police captain. spokesperson
  • Péter Bogdán, Hungarian language and literature teacher
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