Intercultural mediation in practice
Intercultural mediation is a participatory method, a community work that builds bridges between community members living in settlements and the institutions and decision-makers operating in the settlements, in order to promote and positively influence the situation of communities in need.
In our country, intercultural mediation has been established by our foundation. Our professional credo on Roma inclusion here you can read.
The local mediation activities used in the method are coordinated by intercultural mediators. Local communities make decisions and implement plans together in response to problems that arise. We present the municipalities where our Foundation works.
Gyulaj, with a population of 967, is inhabited by 70% Roma people. We have not had an active programme in the settlement for several years, but the local community action group (KACS) and the local Roma mediator, Géza Orsós, are active, as is the local municipality. What have you done over the years to help disadvantaged Roma find employment and improve their housing conditions?
- 65 active Community Action Group members meet regularly to find solutions to local problems, with joint effort and municipal support.
- 1,200,000 forints were raised, which was used to improve the housing conditions of 115 families: some of them had their houses and courtyards made watertight so that their residents could use wheelchairs. Some of the houses were painted, tiled, and renovated bathrooms, and others had the whole house renovated so that the family could stay together and not raise the children. The municipality also provided machinery, tools, sand, cement and bricks for the construction work.
- More than 2300 hours of volunteer work have been put into community affairs.
- Problem solving is always the result of joint discussions and decisions. The process is coordinated by the local intercultural mediator.
- After many years, the pharmacy is back in operation in the village so that patients are not burdened with the cost and time of travelling.
- Public wells have been repaired and renovated to provide clean water to families without piped water.
- More than 70 people have successfully found jobs in factories in the area, with higher wages.
- When providing assistance, the Community Action Team does not distinguish between Roma and non-Roma people.
Meet the team from Gyulaj!
Between 2014 and 2017, we worked with the municipality, the public health service, kindergartens and schools, and together we drew up a problem map. Two mediators are working in Nagydobos, thanks to whom the municipality is known as a model in the area.
- A salt room was set up because of the high incidence of respiratory illnesses among children. The residents donated bricks, the municipality contributed extra funds to the salt room, and residents without children were also keen to contribute.
- Clean-up painting organised for families in need
- Garbage collection organised
- They also acquired contraceptive devices, which they could use anonymously - a delicate subject that had to be approached with tact.
- We believe that when we come together with a community, we create more and more resources to continue working together. So when the GSK programme came to an end, we started a new programme together under a new winning grant: Game librarya community space where we focus on breaking down intergenerational barriers and early childhood development.
- A community garden has also been created in the settlement, the Butterfly Developments Association which we will coordinate from 2021. Children will learn organic gardening and the basics of healthy eating together with adults, and harvest the produce together.
"It's good to see that we are making a difference in each other's lives and people thank me for encouraging them," says Piri, one of the mediators.
We have been in contact with Borsodnádasd for 3 years. First we trained health assistants within the framework of the Swiss Primary Care Model Programme. Later, our colleagues from Borsodnádasd mastered the methodology of intercultural mediation and have been working as Roma mediators for several years. With their knowledge, experience and work, they contribute to raising health awareness and increasing access to primary health care for the poor and Roma who have difficulties in accessing primary health care. In general, Roma living in excluded neighbourhoods face barriers to accessing public health services: no doctor in the village, inability to afford medicines, inadequate information on how to deal with specific health situations. There are many who do not receive regular medical care and do not have enough information about prevention and the importance of health maintenance. They may also be discouraged by bad experiences in primary health care: feeling uncomfortable during an examination, not daring to ask questions or not being able to get to the point of care because they cannot afford the cost of travel and the price of the medicines prescribed.
Mediators believe that the cornerstone of community work is trust and acceptance. They work with their personalities, so the health promotion work also involves their own development, self-confidence, courage to have a say in local public affairs as Roma, to shape them and to have their expertise accepted by the local people.
- During health days, Roma mediators have been able to reach out to people who had not been able to see their local doctor for a long time, to get screening tests. They asked questions about contraception, breast and prostate examinations, previously taboo subjects, with courage and interest.
- The mediators introduced the importance of brushing to children in kindergarten and school, where they were happy to open toothbrushes, toothpaste and cleanliness kits and practise brushing their teeth.
- Together they have set up a mini laundry, which is used by many families.
- The cooperation will be sustainable if the municipality, the local Roma municipality and the public health service take an active role in it, involving other local institutions.
- Local heads of institutions acknowledge the work of Roma mediators and ask them first when they want to find a solution to a family problem: they are trusted by families and institutions alike to help unpack and discuss problematic situations and bring the parties to a solution.
The Roma mediators in Arlo also work with a health focus, but are practically unavoidable when it comes to community issues. They are the first to meet local problems and ask for their opinion, whether they arise in families, kindergartens, schools or other institutions.
- The local community action group is made up of Roma and non-Roma women who say the work gives them joy and confidence.
- The children were delighted with the healthy eating sessions. They participated with interest and activity, learning about the physiological effects of fruit through play.
- 25 poor families received food and cleaning kits during the epidemic.
- The school toilets, which were in a very poor state of repair, have been refurbished and are receiving ongoing guidance on their correct use from a KACS member. The children have since been routinely washing their hands and have learned the correct use of liquid soap.
- The health day was a novelty and an experience at the kindergarten, where the children prepared a fruit bowl together, learned about nutrition information that can be used in everyday life, and some children had health conditions that were identified during screenings and the pediatrician and parents were involved in their treatment.
Four Roma mediators work in Jászapáti, their main role is to identify local problems and pass on information between the local Roma community and the municipality.
- One of the most important local needs was to solve the problem of rubbish: the waste collection company would not take away the rubbish if it was only put in bin bags and not in bins, but the residents could not afford to buy bins. Therefore, the local mini-project decided to buy bins, which were distributed and discussed how to use and maintain them. The waste collector now takes the rubbish away without any problems.
- Outdoor toilets were also provided for families who did not have toilets either in the house or in the garden
- During the coronavirus epidemic, 120 families received vaccines and Roma mediators have played a major role in increasing confidence in vaccination.
It would be important to professionalise intercultural mediation, so that trained mediators can help members of Roma communities and local cooperation in the field of Roma integration in as many needy municipalities as possible.