Learning to organize in Romania’s impoverished Roma community

This month CCH hosted two organizing fellows from Central Europe, in a program managed by The Great Lakes Consortium (GLC) for International Training and Development. CCH hosted six organizers from the program in 2012-13. In June, Associate Director of Organizing Hannah Willage will be the fourth CCH organizer to travel to Central Europe to offer more training there.

By Ionela Maria Ciolan

My interest in fighting for housing rights and preventing homelessness comes from my passion for promoting and spreading human rights in Romania. Since back home I am working with very poor, mainly Roma people in the Ferentari neighborhood of Bucharest, I want to discover new methods of positively influencing the community.

During my placement at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH), I wanted to learn how to become a community organizer, to empower minorities to stand up for their rights, and how to create stable and sustainable advocacy campaigns that can change the current policies on housing and forced evictions in Romania. 

Ionela Maria Ciolan
Ionela Maria Ciolan

I am also interested in creating a network of NGOs focused on housing issues and dealing with Roma people, with the hope that together we can become a powerful voice that advocates for safe and secure housing and changing the current legislation regarding forced evictions. Therefore, I plan to learn from CCH new ways of advocating on housing rights, better methods on developing a coalition of NGOs, and various actions and techniques on how to engage and sustain civil participation in minorities areas.

As part of my internship at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, I visited some homeless shelters for youth, women who faced domestic violence, and single mothers with babies. Hearing their stories of how they’ve became homeless and their daily struggles to overpass it inspired me to fight harder for preventing homelessness back home. I was really touched to see how strong and optimistic my interlocutors are, how even though they face the hardness of life, they’ve kept their positivism and hope. I was moved by James, a young homeless youth who is working on his college diploma, and by every single homeless mother who tries to provide the best for her children.

All of these discussions empower me to try to find better methods in promoting and supporting the housing rights of the Roma community in which I’m working in Bucharest.