By Bill Howell and Dr. Joyce Long
Hand out, hand up, reaching down and moving out. Somehow these ideas have managed to come together in our Discover Parent Seminar. Here’s how we’ve come to this place.
When we first thought of helping young Roma children achieve successful entry into school, we provided 1-2 days of training to groups of parents and children. Our team shared various ideas and engaged those present in hands-on learning. This was something of a “we do–you watch, we do–you help, you do–we give feedback, you do–we applaud” approach. While there were positive results, it became apparent that the impact would be limited by how much time our team could give to training seminars and how limited the process was when it came to follow-up and sustainability.
The next evolution in our work came when we made the decision to train local Roma coaches who would then work with groups of parents, teaching them how to help their children. Each coach comes from the village where they live and conduct the parent seminars. This localization of the process resulted in training that was more culturally relevant. In each location we would have one lead coach who worked with her own local team. These lead coaches gave us a point person for regular communication. At the same time, we appointed a coordinator over all the village teams, who would work with the lead coaches for accountability, resupply, etc.
Finally, a further refinement saw the creation of our coaches’ summit. Bringing the lead coaches and their teams from various villages together at one place accelerated the process. Along with further instruction from our team, the various coaches were able to learn from one another as well as bring their experiences into the ongoing development of the curriculum.
This past March saw a turning point for Roma Learning to Fly as we began work on the next level of training, a tutoring initiative aimed at older students along with expansion into two other countries as teams from Serbia and Romania attended this summit. They were given instruction, provided with the curriculum and an initial 6 month supply of materials. At the same time, the work in Slovakia expanded into a total of six villages with more to come on line in the coming year.
As things have progressed, so has our underlying philosophical belief that long-term success will be achieved as a trained team of Roma parent-coaches empower more parents to help their children become prepared for school and successful in learning. Our ongoing part in the process is to develop and provide resources and training designed to assist local Roma families bring transformation to their own communities.