At the beginning of our work in 2009 the community in Told was devalued and in a poor state, consisting of families with a bare minimum knowledge regarding their rights, socialized in subordinated positions. One further problem was the very composition of the population.
The majority of the community is Roma from three different ethnic groups: Romungro, Olah-Gypsies and Roma people from Romania, all who have different traditions. Most of the Roma in this community were not born or raised in the village but moved here from the nearby cities and villages. The minority of the community is Hungarian (mostly pensioners) and Hungarians and Romanians who moved here from Romania. All of them are equally important members of the community.
During our work we realized we can only achieve changes if we support and work with everyone who lives in the village because every member has his or her effect on the community. Step by step we started to develop and engage the community which has proved to be a learning process for us as well as the community.
One Step Closer
We created a program called “Tea Club at Told” whose purpose was to make it easier for the members of the community to get to know each other, introduce themselves, to develop their communication skills, to establish and facilitate as many targeted and guided conversations within the community as possible. Another element of our program was family photography. Where extreme poverty is very common there is seldom the ability to preserve family memories in the form of photographs. Therefore photo session was an effective and positive moment on the community and family level.
To Be Able To…
In the first half year we spoke at length with the members of the community about basic cooking practices, domestic work, housing and kitchen equipment, etc. We did this in order to establish a conversation based on their daily experiences as a starter point to create connection. It was a great learning process for everyone since everyone had to be in a community, even with the members they did not want to speak to before, or had no connection with. Everyone had to learn to listen and eventually connected with each other.
During the second phase of this project we discussed the topic of family planning, financial planning, the difficulties of having children at different ages etc. We asked experts to help with this phase. Members of the community were taught several techniques of conflict resolution, including discouraging members of the community from gossiping and spreading stories about each other and learning to be discreet. This part of the project had a significant impact which led to more development and strengthened the community.
In the third phase of this project we were able to process “harder” topics, such as domestic violence, all forms of violence against children and introduced several conflict resolution mechanisms. Participants became more reticent, however this element of the program was extremely important to be able to speak about such subjects and emphasize the fact that these are real dangers that all members of the community need to be open about whether speaking in front of the community or privately.
In this project we finished each and every phase with a community cooking and dining experience where everyone had his/her task which strengthened their role in the community. This club was started alongside our other initial projects and is still on-going and very successful.
During this program three women cook together by following the lead of an expert on a weekly basis. They mostly practice how to cook for decent prices, quickly, and they eat the food together with their colleagues and other employees of the Real Pearl Foundation. It is a very important way to strengthen the rules and experience the joy of community dining.
Through this project the community of women was established and it became increasingly evident to us that community events would be absolutely essential in Told.
They picked the topic at the beginning of any activity and after that they separated into groups where they began to cook meals, primarily meals that can be made easily such as salads, quick cakes, different tapas, creams etc. That was followed by knowledge-sharing in the field of healthy eating, hygienic efforts, how to use proper equipment, how to reduce domestic costs etc. and they could speak about these topics within the group. After that all of the participants could speak through their experiences. There was one main difference between the cooking club and Morzsóka Club: at the Morzsóka Club they started the topic with a tale, a novel, non-fiction stories etc. so they were able to see a bigger picture and were able to find relevant issues.
We are constantly developing this project and we follow their feedback. Until now the groups were permanent and the preparatory works were reserved for the same group of people but in the last few months we changed the groups to achieve a more diverse connection between the members of the community.
This program has achieved a strong, integrated community of women who will be able to organize their lives without the help of our foundation. With the help of the Open Society Foundation we started a new element within the Morzsóka Club in which they will organize their own trips, visits, events, dining outside of their community. We would like to encourage them to step out of the box so they can see the work behind every community event to make it happen and to make it successful. Of course we will help if they need it but at the end of this development they would be able to make their own decisions and to lead their own community without our help.
Community Development Of The Employees
Within the team it is very important to resolve conflicts, to develop open lines of communication, to have common meetings, to constantly work on decision-making skills, to make plans, to visualize the future, to make smarter and better financial decisions and to educate them on practical issues (what does it mean to have a loan, contribution, rate, taxes etc.). We also hold what we call the “Honesty half an hour,” for more private and personal conversations.
- integrated, diverse community of women
- key person (people) accepted by the community
- the community organizes Christmas celebrations by itself
- the number of conflicts dropped within the community
- less conflict with the institutions, schools, kindergartens
- a stronger participatory democracy
- higher involvement in the community events
- we can see the signs of solidarity between them in difficult times and in times of crisis
- ethical and honest distribution of resources and donations from fundraising efforts
- the effectiveness of local employees increased
We were able to create a strong, independent community of women who are able to organize themselves, help others, and effectively communicate and resolve conflicts. This group is still fragile—the community needs our help for now but one day the Real Pearl can step back and the community will be able to organize itself.