When I Fall Silent, Silent Falls the World

Project Overview

Raising awareness about Roma in Kosovo and in Poland through film screenings, photo exhibitions and a youth art competition.

Identifying the Problem

After working with Roma in the village of Plemetina in Kosovo, Marta was inspired to raise awareness about the situation of Roma. Her enthusiasm spread to Katarzyna, Johanne and Agnieszka, who all agreed that not only was there a lack of awareness about Roma culture in Europe, but that such unfamiliarity has led to hurtful and demeaning stereotypes about Roma. These Senior Fellows were determined to help eliminate some of these stereotypes, and decided to work towards this goal through raising awareness about the situation of Roma in Poland. They wanted to create a project that would challenge common beliefs about the Roma, while giving people the opportunity to learn more, challenge their own assumptions and ask questions about this community.

Creating A Solution

Through film screenings, discussions, a photo exhibition, a youth art competition, and a publication, this project successfully increased the public's knowledge about Roma both in Kosovo and in Poland. The team of Senior Fellows began by contacting people within their personal and professional networks in order to obtain venues for screening the films and exhibiting the photographs.  

The team worked closely with a partner organization in Kosovo as well as a Roma documentary filmmaker to organize an interesting and educational project. The partner organizations provided photographs - some semi-professional and some from the youth in Plemetina - to be organized into a photo exhibition. The team printed these photographs to be displayed alongside the screening of Sami Mustafa's documentary Nachi Palem Khere [Never Back Home Again], which examines the situation of internally displaced persons, many of whom are Roma in Plemetina.  

Screenings were organized in four Polish cities - Warsaw, Lublin, Poznan and Wroclaw – with the Warsaw screening coinciding with World Refugee Day. Each screening was followed by an expert panel discussion about the situation of Roma in Kosovo and Poland. After the completion of the screenings, a small youth art competition was implemented around Poland in which youth were asked to create a piece of art (photograph, painting, drawing, etc.) that showed Roma in a more positive light. The response was excellent and the team found it quite difficult to choose a winner as there were so many great entries. Finally, a small publication was written to describe the project in detail and highlight some of the photographs and art competition entries.

The final part of the project was a youth art competition, in which over thirty Polish youngsters submitted entries on the topic: “Roma means who? Think again!” This competition was developed as a way for Polish youth to present an alternative vision of the Roma in Polish society. The team blogged about the ongoing progress of the project and at the end compiled the results in a publication, which documented the lessons learned throughout the entire process.

Lessons Learned

In organizing and implementing a successful project of this magnitude, there will almost always be a few bumps along the way. One of the difficulties this team of Senior Fellows ran into was   scheduling panelists for the discussions that followed the film screenings. They stress that you can never request confirmation from your panelists too many times, and suggest confirming their arrival two weeks, four days, and one day in advance of their scheduled discussion.

The group also ran into visa issues for guests who were coming to the exhibition from outside the country. If you plan on inviting guests who will need to obtain visas, it is important to start the visa application early – at least three months in advance – and stay in touch with the guest to ensure that the visa procedure is running smoothly. It is also crucial to ensure that your guest’s passport will not be expiring anywhere near the time of the event!

Because the team members were residing in different countries while they organized the project, there were some additional challenges. However, they recommend that teams planning events remotely commit to regular meetings over the internet and allow themselves more than enough time for organization and logistics.

Funding

This action project was supported by a grant from the “Get Down To Work” competition, organized by Humanity in Action Poland and the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw. In addition to funding, this project would not have been possible without the necessary permission to use the art pieces. The Senior Fellows contacted the director and producers of Never Back Home Again, who allowed them to screen the film. The team also obtained permission from the photographers to use their photographs in the exhibition. The Senoir Fellows received extra support by partnering with Gaia Kosovo (a Kosovo-based organization promoting Roma inclusion), Balkan Sunflowers (a Kosovo-based organization promoting Roma education) and Romawood (a Kosovo-based film production company).

The Senior Fellows received very helpful logistical support from the team at Humanity in Action Poland, who helped them to write the terms and conditions for the art competition, spread information to the wider public and contact the jury members from the US Embassy in Warsaw.

Awards & Recognition

"When I Fall Silent, Silent Falls the World" was recognized as an extraordinary Senior Fellow project at the Third Annual Humanity in Action International Conference, held in Sarajevo.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Poland Poland 2010

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