Bicycles Support Roma Children in Albania

by Ened Mato
Spring 2016 InGear

December 2015: 2 babies died from the cold. They belonged to the Roma community, one of the most marginalized communities in Albania. Since 1990 they have been in constant movement.

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They raise their homes near rivers so they have access to water for drinking and cleaning. Simultaneously they do some of the best work that humans do for their planet, which is recycling. But they suffer, they have always suffered in Albania. They have more than 25 years of living on trash heaps and wandering in the open air.

The Roma people in Albania alone have 500 of their children at risk from the cold, the winter rains, and from poverty. They are full of life. You can find them everywhere, separating trash from recyclables. You can find them in the street begging for money, or in bars selling almonds and walnuts.

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They are everywhere, and often are victims of violence, exploitation, or abuse. You can see these kids everywhere except at school! None of them go to school for a simple reason: they are unwashed and unkempt, and are too embarrassed to attend school, where they feel rejected. Their problem lies precisely in their living conditions. This is the point where all the problems of this community begin. Lacking adequate living conditions, they lack the opportunities that others have. So because of the lack of sanitation in their communities they do not go to school but instead go out on the street. It is a vicious circle from which it is so difficult to disconnect the dots. This is why we hope to attack the problem at its root.

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All the money from the sale of the first 100 bicycles from our recent P4P container will go to provide the first house trailers of the First Roma Park in Albania. The trailers will ensure minimal living conditions, adapted also to their nomadic culture. We will supply house trailers to 40 families with 150 children. Pedals for Progress will be the catalyst of this change.

These children will leave the streets and will return to school. They will have the opportunity to be educated and they will have a future. But what is most important is that these Roma will have a roof over their heads for the first time in 25 years. There will be no more babies dying from the cold.

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