Ruslan doesn’t like school. Because he is a Roma (sometimes called Gypsy), he is frequently picked on and excluded from activities. When the other school children found out he was a Roma, they began throwing rocks at him on his way home from school. His siblings all dropped out by the 5th or 6th grades. He, his family, and his people are poor physically and socially. Outside their small settlement, Roma people are despised, degraded and without many of the benefits of Kyrgyz citizenship.
There is one exception however. A year ago, a new couple and a single woman moved in next to the Roma settlement. These new neighbors treat Ruslan and his people like they are normal! They respect the Roma elders, they give hugs to Ruslan and his friends, they invite families over to their home. And best of all, they are planning a kids camp. Ruslan has always wanted to attend a camp like all Kyrgyz kids love to do, but he has never been allowed to join in before.
This small CDI team decided to host summer and fall camps in the Roma settlement’s streets since they weren’t allowed in the schools. They sang songs in the local language, and taught action movements to go with them. They used pantomimes to share stories, drew pictures, and danced. The kids loved every moment. Even the adults from the community couldn’t stay away and stood around watching and listening in. On the 3rd and last day of one of the camps CDI staff came to start setting up early in the morning and found members from the community already there working to get the street prepped for camp!
Later in the fall, They hosted several single day camps in different areas of the settlement. The theme was “Forgiveness” and how it is a key part of developing relationships with others. One man from the crowd seemed particularly absorbed in the topic and invited the CDI staff to his home afterwards. They shared the teaching with his whole family, and the man was so excited to keep learning and teaching this topic with others.