The majority is between 6-12 years old. We have been trying to build a relationship with them for over a year now. What would be more normal than for them to spend a joyful school holiday break, without any burdens, with happy thoughts focused only on the gifts beautifully wrapped under the Christmas tree. Unfortunately, the harsh reality has nothing normal… these children do not attend school; they are on the streets every day working up to seven-hour shifts with no happy festive thoughts.
They belong to a minority group called “Rom” and they are either Greek citizens or citizens of other Balkan countries. In the vast majority of such cases, their families face serious socio-economic adversities. Every time we meet with them, the children insist that we spend time together. We are delighted to offer them a brief careless break before the head of their group gets up (in most cases the eldest child), giving the signal it is high time that they return to work.
Through beautifully coloured drawings featuring princes and princesses, couples in love and happy families they attempt to share their dreams with us. Some 10 year olds are trying their beset to write their names, desperately seeking for a written depiction of their identity. They are observing perplexed the rulers and rubbers that they hold for the first time, wondering what they are used for…
We hold a big surprise for them, a puppet show, especially for them! Their eyes full of joy, wonder and disbelief. As they are given breakfast, they whisper back the most heartfelt thanks and we are overwhelmed with emotion.
We share stories about Santa Claus and help them to scribble some words in a letter addressed to him. We read out. They ask just what any child would, such as bicycles and toys… but they also ask for wings so that they can fly far away. We offer them small gifts with sketchbooks, crayons and play dough, we don’t want them to stop drawing, we need to keep the hope alive.
They reciprocate in a unique way. They welcome us to their neighborhood. They showed us where they live, where they play. It is so evident now that they ask us to go to them, so that together we can turn the streets into a safe environment, where everyone is accepted unconditionally, with freedom of expression and a right to claim their undeniable rights.