ROMED Intercultural Mediation Training in the UK

For some time a number of local authorities and other public bodies have recognised the value of employing people from Gypsy and Traveller backgrounds. The idea is to break down barriers and improve trust between official institutions and the people that they are here to serve. There are teachers and teaching assistants, home school liaison officers, youth workers, police officers, health workers, adult basic skills workers and social workers, often working with the whole population, and with a specific remit to promote the inclusion of their own communities. More recently schools, police forces, fire services and councils have recruited Roma from Eastern Europe to carry out similar roles. With the reduction in local authority budgets, voluntary sector organisations have increasingly developed an advocacy and liaison role. Some of these organisations are community led and their staff are often called upon to intervene in order to improve relations with service providers.

The Council of Europe, with funding from the European Union, has developed a training programme that has been designed for community members whose work, either paid or voluntary, involves them in some way in intercultural mediation. This programme is called ROMED. By participating in seven days of training with Council of Europe trainers and completing a six month work based assignment participants can gain the ROMED certificate.

The ROMED training is highly participative with much group work, role play and discussion as well as some theory. Topics covered include stereotyping, prejudice, discrimination, dealing with critical incidents, human rights, conflict management, assessment, planning, evaluations and the European Code of Ethics for Roma mediators. The intention of the training is to equip the trainees to act impartially to help develop the confidence of public institutions and community members in liaising directly with one another. This in turn will help to improve fair access to services and participation by everyone on a more equal footing.

The UK government agreed to join the ROMED training programme in 2012. The course has run twice now with ACERT (the Advisory Council for the Education of Romany and other Travellers) acting as the UK National Focal Point, responsible for organising the training courses , recruiting and supporting the trainees and reporting back to the Council of Europe. So far 35 UK based trainees have been awarded the ROMED certificate. This group includes people from a wide range of Traveller, Gypsy and Roma backgrounds who are living and working in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. A number of the participants from the first course supported those in the second cohort, two of them acting as co-trainers.

ACERT will circulate enquiries from organisations and local authorities seeking to use the services of a ROMED trained mediator. We would also be willing to support local authorities seeking to organise intercultural mediator training for people from their local communities.

For further information contact

info@acert.org.uk

www.acert.org.uk

https://www.facebook.com/romed.mediators?fref=ts

https://romed.coe-romct.org/romed-curriculum

ACERT attends the First Congress of ROMA Mediators Brussels, 17-18 January 2013

anthem The first Congress of Roma mediators from the Council of Europe/European Commission ROMED programme took place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. As well as Roma mediators and trainers from several different countries, participants at the event included EU Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou and the Special Representative of the Council of Europe Secretary General for Roma issues, Jeroen Schokkenbroek. A message from the Council of Europe Secretary General was transmitted by video and is available on line. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0HkGn0DNbs&feature=youtu.be

Josie+Sybil

European Union and Council of Europe officials were present and International Non Governmental Organisations and organisations like the Open Society Foundations and the Roma Education Fund were there to listen to and support the more than 250 Roma and Travellers from the 20 countries participating in the programme. The talk by Zelijko Jovanovic Drector of the Roma Initiatives Office of the Open Society Foundations was among the most poignant and uplifting, calling upon his fellow Roma not to lose hope but to exert their democratic rights and to be prepared to act as leaders within their communities. Power, he said, will not be given; it must be taken.

Sam+

Margaret Wood, Vice-Chair of ACERT, represented ACERT, the UK National Focal Point for ROMED. The UK trainee mediators were represented by Josie O’Driscoll who works for the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain and Sam Wilson from Hampshire County Council Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service. The UK trainers (including Sybil Lee, Lisa Hall) received certificates for having successfully completed their training. During a panel session on the first afternoon Sybil and Sam both addressed the congress. They spoke about what is happening with the ROMED programme in the UK. They emphasised the need to ensure that our mediators are recognised and used by local authorities and agencies and that they receive appropriate remuneration for their time and skills.

Sybil+Margaret

The congress was an inspiring experience. It brought together so many Roma and Traveller participants speaking many different mother tongues, including Romanes, and with such an amazing wealth of experiences to share both directly and through the team of breathtakingly skilled interpreters. Much of the congress was devoted to presentations and individual testimonies. There was an interactive role play led by Forum Theatre and a stirring concert performed by the Orchestra Europea per la Pace and the Alexian Group whose star performer, Santino Spinelli, is also a ROMED trainer. They performed the anthem Jelem Jelem and other Roma music and by the end of the evening half the audience were on their feet dancing.

Gypsies, Travellers, Roma and all the many other related groups, even within one country, are not a homogenous people but one thing that struck us in Brussels was how many similarities there are and how much we have in common. Those of us who were lucky enough to attend the congress look forward to sharing our experiences in the UK.

“Overwhelmed with pride at being a Gypsy and knowing that we count”.

This quote, taken from an participant evaluation, sums up the atmosphere at the first session of the UK ROMED training programme was held at Luther King House in Manchester from December 4 – 8 2012.

25 trainee mediators from Roma, Gypsy and Traveller backgrounds from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales took part. They were very positive about having been selected for the training and appreciated the successful learning experience for everyone involved.

The participants gelled as a group, enjoyed learning about each others’ cultures and rapidly developed in confidence as they took part in the training activities. They  appreciated the participative delivery style and the friendly and supportive approach of the trainers and welcomed this unique opportunity for networking and sharing of professional knowledge and experience.

When the week ended they were fired with enthusiasm, looking forward to putting into practice the skills they had learned and to meeting up with the group once again in late March.

Mediator training oversubscribed

Applications closed on Thursday November 15th for the Council of Europe course for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller mediators. There was a good response with over 50 people applying for 27 places. ACERT, which is organising the course on behalf of the Council of Europe, has offered places to all applicants who have Gypsy, Roma or Traveller ethnicities, completed their applications by the deadline and said they could definitely attend the course. Those who were not offered places may still have the opportunity to attend if initial offers of places are not taken up. Unfilled places will be offered on Wednesday November 21st. If there is a significant number of disappointed applicants ACERT will make the case for another course in the future.

Thank you to all who applied. We hope it will be a valuable course and will pave the way for more community members to be employed in roles that promote understanding and respect for identity and culture.