Cultural and Educational Women Association of Drosero Xanthi “ELPIDA” (“THE HOPE”)
WHO WE ARE
In August 2006, twenty Roma women from Drosero formed an NGO, the Roma Women’s Association of Drosero – ELPIDA, which means ‘hope’ in Greek. They wanted to establish an organization, through which they could be represented as Roma, claim their rights and exercise their obligations as Greek citizens.
ELPIDA’s center in Drosero functions as a versatile cultural center, as a place where training courses are offered, and provides a forum for meeting and free expression for the residents, particularly the women and children of the settlement.
ELPIDA actively promotes, in all areas and at all levels of public administration, the interests and the integration of the Roma in Greece, and particularly the well-being of Roma women and children.
Over the years, ELPIDA’s activities have attracted the interest and support of many organizations and institutions, national and international. ELPIDA has also represented the Greek Roma at numerous international conferences, seminars and meetings. Today it is the most widely recognized Greek Roma association, both nationally and internationally.
ELPIDA’s activities aim to:
* Empower the women of the settlement and to support their role in their families and in the community.
* Provide various forms of education and learning opportunities to Drosero’s children and adults.
* Carry out creative activities for children.
* Create opportunities for a better future for the children of Drosero through the teaching of necessary skills and know-how.
* Enhance community members’ ability to assert their right to better living conditions.
* Fight adult illiteracy.
* Disseminate information and try to curtail problems related to the health of the residents, to domestic violence, to lack of civil registration, to social benefits, etc., and to promote social integration in general.
* Appeal to relevant public services for the improvement of the infrastructure facilities in the area.
* Cooperate with other organizations, which share ELPIDA’s vision, in order to achieve the goals of the association.
Drosero, located on the edge of the City of Xanthi in northern Greece, is one of the oldest and largest Roma settlements in Greece. The settlement of Drosero has a population estimated to be around 8,300 inhabitants. The community shares many of the problems faced by Roma across Europe: illiteracy, unemployment, social exclusion and racism.
As soon as ELPIDA was founded, the association established a nursery school for early childhood education and creative activities. The number of children who attend the center every day ranges from 30 to 40. The children who attend the preschool center are 3-5 years old.
Apart from the two trained teachers, who are responsible for the children’s educational program, two women of the association contribute to the overall functioning of the nursery center as mediators. As the majority of young children speak Romani and do not speak or understand Greek, the mediators play a very important role in facilitating the children’s communication with the teachers. Teachers and social workers perform other duties as well. For example, they are responsible for carrying out the children’s vaccination.
Tutoring for Students
Students of Drosero have difficulty coping with the school’s demands for after school preparation for various reasons, the most important being that at home there is no one who can help them study. Thus, ELPIDA offers tutoring classes to these students. Tutoring classes are set up depending on students’ needs, while Greek language, mathematics and English are also taught at ELPIDA’s tutorials.
Two social workers are employed by ELPIDA in order to ‘bring back’ children who have dropped out of school. In the two years that this initiative has been implemented, the number of children registered in school increased by 200. The social workers, by gaining the trust of the community, managed to motivate both children and parents to participate in formal education.
ELPIDA, in order to contribute to the children’s socialization outside of the village, and thus their integration with the non-Roma local community, organizes different types of extracurricular activities. These include theatre performances for children, Romani traditional music concerts, photo exhibitions of works created by the children of Drosero, etc. All these activities are carried out outside the settlement and are often part of the “Old Town of the City of Xanthi” festivals.
ELPIDA also organizes field trips for the children, e.g. to the ancient Hippodrome, to the city of Komotini to take part in the music festival, to the ancient theatre of Philippi, to the Lazarist Monastery in Thessaloniki, etc. A notable activity was a presentation of the story of the Roma as an experiential story telling, organized, written and performed by the children of Drosero. It was performed at both Thessaloniki and Athens, and ELPIDA has received invitations to present this performance abroad as well.
Other activities, such as planting trees in the square of Drosero, also involves the children in volunteering and participating in communal activities.
The association furthermore facilitates that the children of Drosero be included in summer camp programs, whereby they have the chance to go to the beach, often for the first time in their lives.
Training for Women
In addition to children’s education, tutoring and training, ELPIDA also provides learning opportunities for its adult members.
Right from the start of its operation, the association organized Greek language lessons for adults. After five months of intensive daily lessons, 10-12 women members of the association took the national exams in order to acquire primary school certificates. Presently, up to 15-20 women participate twice a week in the Greek language lessons offered at the association’s premises. Since 2006, about 120 women of different ages participated in classes for hairdressing, sewing, cooking and pastry making. Some of them managed to generate income based on their new skills. All these activities are intended to increase the knowledge and the skills of the participants, while preserving and promoting pride in their Romani culture.
ELPIDA partners with other organizations to provide medical check-ups and vaccinations for the children of the community. In addition the Association organizes workshop and seminars to help residents access medical services.
RESEARCH AND STUDIES
Elpida’s activities are not limited to the educational and social fields, but go further. More specifically, the association, in an effort to disseminate information about social integration problems and Roma living conditions, has managed to mobilize people from various cultural and political fields. In this context, the association works with academics from several institutions and assists them in conducting research in the settlement of Drosero. For example:
- ELPIDA took the initiative to conduct a census of the settlement in 2007 and in 2018.
- Cooperation with Evangelia Adamou, Doctor of linguistics at the University of Paris and Director of Research at the national center of scientific research in France.
- Research on language contact in Drosero, with recorded talks in 2010. Subvention: Agence Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique (ANR-09-JCIC-0121-01). Towards a multi-level, typological and computer assisted analysis of contact-induced language change.
- In October 2015: Research on language processing in Romani, with 50 speakers from Drosero. Subvention: Laboratoire d’ Excellence Empirical Foundations of Linguistics, Agence Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique.
Elpida has actively pursued the creation of a network of organizations and other stakeholders around it in order to facilitate its aims. It views this network as an opportunity to create synergies and collaborations in terms of funding and maximization of impact for its activities. Through networking, Elpida attempts to attract new funds and volunteers, raise awareness, advocate and facilitate its role as a bridge between the Romani community of Drosero and the rest of the society at local, regional, national and international levels. As the list of donors above reflects, Elpida has developed cooperation with NGOs in Greece and abroad, local and central government agencies, foreign diplomatic missions, such as the Dutch Embassy in Athens (http://greece.nlembassy.org/) and the French Consulate General in Thessaloniki (http://www.embassypages.com/missions/embassy4463/), international organizations, such as the Council of Europe public benefit foundations. Academics in Greece and abroad as well as other individuals equally assist the work of Elpida.
Elpida welcomes and informs official visitors, such as Greek MPs, foreign diplomats and representatives of international organizations. Towards this end, the President of Elpida, Ms. Sabiha Suleiman, holds regular meetings with representatives of all domestic and foreign representatives of bodies and agencies that are interested and willing to assist it in carrying out its aims, including the US Consulate General in Thessaloniki (https://thessaloniki.usconsulate.gov/), the US Embassy in Athens (https://athens.usembassy.gov/), as well as other diplomatic missions. In a context of acute socio-economic Roma exclusion and illiteracy, networking has been particularly beneficial for Elpida. The recent selection for funding by the European Commission (http://ec.europa.eu/) of a project on Life-long Learning, for which Elpida joined forces with NGOs across several EU countries, is an illustration of the recognition of the capacity and of the work Elpida performs.
PARTICIPATION IN CONFERENCES
The president and the members of Elpida participate in various conferences and European forums in order to learn about practices and policies concerning the Roma. This is to help devise new practices to strengthen the community and ensure its integration and identity.
Meetings attended so far:
29-30 January 2020, Active Citizens Fund Roadshow II – Active Citizens Fund program, Xanthi.
23-25 November 2019, Workshop organized by the RoWNI network to discuss the European Strategy for the Roma 2021-2025 (workshop For the Roma Strategy 2021-2025), Italy.
1 July 2019, Conference on “Empowering Roma through Participation: After the EU elections, what’s next for Roma?” ERIO, Brussels, Belgium.
1-3 March 2019, Workshop on bilingual education and minority Issues: “Bilingualism in Turkish-Muslim Education of Minorities and Different Approaches in the World: Problems and Possible Solutions,” Komotini, Greece. The conference was organized by the Association of Minority Scientists of Western Thrace (BTAYTD), the Cultural Educational Society of Minority (PEKEM), the European Federation of Turks of Western Thrace (ABTTF) and the FUEN (Federal Union). At the event, the opening speech was made by the UN Special Rapporteur on Minorities, Professor Fernand de Varennes.
14 November 2018, A workshop was held by ERIO in Brussels with equality bodies, anti-discrimination experts and Roma representatives on “Ending Roma Discrimination in Housing and Health: The Role of Equality Bodies.”
23-24 March 2018, “2nd International Conference of Roma Women,” in Barcelona, Spain. Attended by Sabiha Suleiman and Mrs. Najie and Mrs. Fikrie, members of ELPIDA’s board.
31 March 2017, Regional Conference on Roma Social Inclusion, at the initiative of the National Center for Social Solidarity, in the framework of the project “Development of the National Platform for consultation and dialogue on Roma issues,” implemented with EU co-financing (Program “Rights, Equality and Citizenship 2014-2020″), Thessaloniki, Greece.
24-26 March 2017, The Clock of Youth, event organized by the Municipal Council held at the Art and Thought Complex, the house where Manos Hadjidakis was born. Among the speakers was Sabiha Suleiman with the theme “From the settlement of Drosero to the UN Committees,” Xanthi, Greece.
15-16 December 2016, Athens Bar Association, training of lawyers on non-discrimination, gender equality of Roma women and Travelers in the framework of the JUSTROM program, Athens, Greece.
19 November 2016: Cultural Center of the Municipality of Athens, event for the launch of the EC/CoE Joint Program of the Council of Europe on access to justice for Roma and women Travelers, Athens, Greece.
13 April 2016: Research Institute for the Balkans, Violence against women in the Balkans, Thessaloniki, Greece.
18-20 March 2016: 10th Congress of the International Romani Union IRU, Skopje, FYROM.
1-2 December 2015: Dialogue mechanism with Roma and Travelers Organizations, Strasbourg, France.
6-7 October 2015: Practical info and Agenda of the Fifth International Review Conference of Roma Women, Skopje, FYROM.
1-3 October 2015: OSCE/ODIHR contact point for Roma and Sinti Issues: New Report on Roma and Sinti Youth, Warsaw, Poland.
26 March 2015: ELIAMEP day seminar Fighting New Forms of Trafficking of Roma Children, Athens, Greece.
13-17 March 2015: Conference on bilingualism and education of minorities (without proper title and held in secret) FUEN, Komotini, Greece.
5 March 2015: Day of Women, Soroptimistic Union of Greece, Xanthi, Greece.
26-27 November 2014: ΕRIO (Εuropean Roma Information Office), General Assembly Meeting, Brussels, Belgium.
17 November 2014: European Roma Information Office (ERIO), high-level conference with local authorities, Brussels, Belgium.
2-3 October 2014: ROMACT, Roma Inclusion on the Ground – The ROMACT Experience, Brussels, Belgium.
28 March 2014: Ombudsman, Roma Social Inclusion and Good Practices, Athens, Greece.
10 March 2014: Council of Europe, Meeting Against Racism and Intolerance, (ECRI), Strasbourg, France.
28-30 January 2014: US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Combating Discrimination, Violence and Intolerance Based on Religion and National Origin. Athens, Greece.
7-8 November 2013: OSCE, Supplementary Human Roma and Sinti, Vienna, Austria.
16-17 September 2013: Council Of Europe, 4th International Conference of Roma Women, Helsinki, Finland.
27-28 November 2012: 5th Congress of UN about Minorities, President’s speech in plenary, Geneva, Switzerland.
14-16 November 2012: 1st Greek-German meeting on social organization, Thessaloniki, Greece.
7 April 2012: Book presentation Drosero: A Roma, Muslim Settlement in Thrace, Xanthi, Greece.
3-6 February 2011: Dosta, Awareness Campaign to Combat Prejudice Against the Roma, Council of Europe, Ministry of Education, Lifelong Learning and Religious Affairs, Athens, Greece.
2 December 2011: Policies to Combat Discrimination in Greece and the Role of Civil Society, Xanthi, Greece.
7 December 2010: Civil Society and Gender Equality, General Secretariat for Gender Equality, Ministry of Interior, Decentralization and e-Government, Athens, Greece.
6-9 April 2010: Roundtable with Romani and Travellers women activists On the Road to Equality, FRA, Cordoba, Spain.
11–12 January 2010: 2nd International Conference of Roma Women, Ministry of Interior, Decentralization and e-Government, the Roma Network and the Council of Europe, Athens, Greece.
9-10 November 2009: International Conference on Roma Migration and Freedom of Movement, FRA (Fundamental Rights Agency), COE (Council of Europe) and OSCE (OASA), Vienna, Austria.
21 November 2009, Meeting for the preparation of the International Conference of Roma Women, NGO Drom Kotar Mestipen, Barcelona, Cordoba, Madrid, Spain.
6-9 October 2009: OASA Annual Meeting Human Dimension Implementation Roma & Sinti and, in particular, early education for Roma & Sinti children, OASA, Warsaw, Poland.
8 April 2009: University of Thessaly, Department of Architecture, Building Together, Volos, Greece.
24 November 2008: Annual Meeting of the European Roma and Travelers Forum, Council of Europe, ERTF (European Roma and Travelers Forum), Strasbourg, France.
29 September – 10 October 2008: OASA Human Dimension Implementation Annual Meeting, Warsaw, Poland.
8 April 2008: On the occasion of the celebration of International Roma Day, Amnesty International in Komotini held an event with the theme Roma Discrimination Begins in Primary School, where the President of ELPIDA participated as a speaker, Komotini, Greece.
17 April 2008: International Meeting in the European Parliament for the Turkish and Macedonian Minority in Greece, FUEN and European Green Party, Brussels, Belgium.
25-26 February 2008: Decade of Roma Inclusion, Council of Europe, World Bank, Soros Foundation, United Nations Development Program, Budapest, Hungary.
8-9 February 2008: Access of Roma Children to Education in Turkey, ERIO (European Roma Information Office), Roma Education Fund, Istanbul, Turkey.
29-31 January 2008: Active Roma Citizens and Social Inclusion, ERIO (European Roma Information Office), Brussels, Belgium.
VISITS & VISITORS
Throughout the years of the Association, both the President of the Association and its members have met with numerous people both in Drosero and beyond to provide information about the problems of the Roma and raise awareness of Roma culture.
In all the years of operation, the Association has maintained contacts with politicians, regardless of party, with the aim of properly informing them about the issues and problems faced by the Roma in Thrace and nationwide. The Association always tries, in addition to information, to propose best practices that would help in the solution of problems.
In the context of the collaborations for the formulation of policy for the Roma, the president of the association, Sabiha Suleiman had a meeting on 31 December 2014 with the Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras, where many issues related to the problems of the Roma, and especially the issue of education, were discussed.
In 2016, 14 Roma students of the 8th High School of Xanthi were in Athens to visit the Greek Parliament and had the opportunity to talk in a cordial atmosphere with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, and outline the problems of their settlement.
First Official Greek Celebration of International Roma Day
On 8 April 2019, on the occasion of International Roma Day, the President of ELPIDA”, Sabiha Suleiman, was in Athens to attend the event held by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. It was the first Greek official celebration of International Roma Day since its inception in 1990. Representatives of Roma associations active in Greece, young children and students were invited to celebrate the day and exchange views with the Prime Minister.
The President of the Association discussed the following main problems faced by her settlement, one of the largest Roma settlements in Greece, with 8,293 inhabitants:
- The problems in education and the issue of capacity in the schools of the settlement.
- Problems of unemployment and the disappearance over the years of traditional Roma professions.
- The problems with all the settlements that are not included in the city plan.
On 26 April 2018, the president of ELPIDA was invited to the reception organized by the Dutch Embassy in Athens, for King’s day. At the reception, the president had the opportunity discuss, informally, Roma issues with George Papandreou, former Prime Minister of Greece and Mrs. Fotini Tomai-Konstantopoulou, head of the Historical Archive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Meeting and discussion with Cuban Ambassador Hermes Herrera Hernandez, in the context of the 1st Spanish-speaking Film Festival in Xanthi, organized by the Foundation of Thracian Art and Tradition and the NGO, Entropia, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution. Sabiha Suleiman was present, at the invitation of the Ambassador, to discuss the possibility of cooperation on the production of cigars, due to the good tobacco produced by the region of Thrace.
Meeting of the president of the association with the UN representative Ms Gay MacDougall (27 & 28 November 2012, 5th UN Conference on Minorities, Geneva, Switzerland).
Several US Ambassadors and Consuls have visited Drosero over the years, including: Mr. Robert King, Mr. Patrick Konel, Mr. Dard Muehlhe and Mr. Rafael Diaz. In turn, ELPIDA’s president, Sabiha Suleiman, has been invited to various events organized by the US Consulate in Thessaloniki:
On 14 February2019, Consul General Gregory W. Pfleger of the American Consulate in Thessaloniki visited the premises of our Association in order to get acquainted with the activities of our Association and the situation of the Roma in Thrace and Greece in general. The Consul wanted to know details about all the actions of the Association, in order to have data and arguments in the next meetings with various competent bodies. The President at this point explained to the Consul that the Association pays particular attention to include all children in schools in Xanthi and to include the settlement in the city plan.
Sabiha Suleiman attends a US Consulate reception with Mrs. Suzanne Lawrence and Consul Mr. Robert P. Sanders, in Thessaloniki for the celebration of US Independence Day, in 2015.
On November 6, 2014, Mr. Rafael Diaz, of the Embassy of the United States of Athens, visited the premises of our Association accompanied by Xeni Kosmidou from the Consulate General of Thessaloniki, and Mrs. Christina Rouggeri from the US Embassy. The purpose of the visit was to inform them about the issues and problems faced by the Roma of Thrace and nationwide.
In 2009 at the Consulate General of America in Thessaloniki, Sabiha Suleiman and Consul Robert King attend a speech by the American Ambassador Daniel Speckhard.
In 2015, a farewell event was held for Ambassador David Pearce at the Consulate General of the United States in Thessaloniki.
An event for Roma Day was held at the US Consulate General in Thessaloniki in 2008.
In 2007, the American Consul in Thessaloniki Brian Yee Hoyt, visited our Association twice in order to be informed about the activities of the Association and especially about the education of the Roma. Together with the president of the Association, he visited the schools of the settlement.
French Consul Christophe Le Rigoleur visited ELPIDA in 2013 to learn about the Association’s activities, the obstacles we face, funding and cooperation with French Roma officials. Mrs. Suleiman thanked him for his interest and invitations to events of the embassy.
In 2015, we met with the Ambassador of Australia, Mr. Griffin, in order to present activities of ELPIDA, and a proposal was made to visit Australia and meet the Roma there. The Ambassador stressed that in Australia the school are open to Roma children and gave us relevant material.
The president of the association visited the Norwegian embassy in Athens on 4 July 2019 and talked with the ambassador Mr. Jørn Eugene Gjelstad and Mrs. Polyxeni Anastasiou, EEA & Norway Grants Officer. Ambassador Gjelstad appreciated the comprehensive information on the plight of Greek Roma that Mrs. Suleiman was able to provide. The issue of educational access for the children of the settlement was discussed in depth. Ambassador Gjelstad was particularly impressed by the Association’s steady and effective work in the community to increase school attendance. The President explained that EEA grants are part of this important project and that ELPIDA hopes to continue its good cooperation with the EEA Fund.
Visit of Mrs. Isabella Michalache as representative of the Council of Europe, responsible for the JUSTRom program and meeting with 100 residents of the settlement on issues of education, inclusion in the city plan and infrastructure, work, housing and fines. On the same day, she attended the activities of the association and the preschool, preparation where the 3-5 year old children are preparing for the schools of Xanthi. She spoke with the children in Romani and thanked them for the spring cards that they prepared for her.
Meeting with Soraya Post, Roma MEP European Parliament, in October 2014 at a conference in Brussels on Roma inclusion.
Visit to the Association in 2009 by Ms. Teresa Sorde, Professor at the University of Barcelona, researcher on Roma culture and volunteer at the Drom Kotar Mestipen Association.
Visit to our Association in 2018 by Suzane Usein of the organization FRIDA: Young Feminists Fund, in order to see the practices of our association, actions in local services and efforts to empower the residents of the settlement and to transfer them to other young women’s associations.
Visit of Annabel Carballo, European Project Manager Coordinator from Spain, to our Association. Ms. Carballo has made a documentary about the Roma and their history and the common problems they face, entitled The path of the Roma.
Close cooperation and communication with Mr. Orhan Galjus (Chair, EBU Roma task force Group), Roma activist and journalist, who operates a Romanian radio station (radio Patrin News Network). President of the Eurasian Network of Roma Academies and Vice-President of the European Roma Union.
Members of the association traveled to Spain with Roma women and Ms. Cornelia Hatzimasura on 21-25 November 2009. The occasion was ameeting in preparation for the International Roma Women Conference, organized by the NGO Drom Kotar Mestipen.
Visit of the well-known journalist of the The Economist, Mr. Bruce Clark on 20 November 2014 together with Mr. Antonis Kosmidis. The meeting came after the Sabiha Suleiman’s forced withdrawal as a candidate in the 2014 European elections, due to her origin as a Roma, and Mr. Clark expressed his support. He published the article of the interview in the newspaper The Economist.
Minas Efraimoglou and his whole family actively supported the work of the Association and financed the children’s activities. The photograph is from one of their visits to the Association.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Dora Bakoyanni with Euripides Stylianidis and the then head of the political affairs office Vassilios Bornovas visited the Association in 2007. Ms. Bakoyannis was informed about the situation of the Roma in Thrace and the situation in education, language and culture and the positions of the local authorities. At the end of the meeting she distributed gifts to the young children of the settlement, who participate in the creative work of the association.
Mr. Terence Quick, journalist and politician, visited the Association in 2014, after the European elections.
Mr. Stavros Theodorakis, journalist and politician visited together with Mrs. Maria Dimitriou, Roma candidate for MEP and social welfare supervisor.
Nikos Kotzias, Minister of Foreign Affairs, after the presentation of his book “Patriotism and the Left”, on 12 December 2014 in Komotini, spoke with the president of the association.
A meeting was held at the Ministry of Rural Development in 2016 with Minister Markos Bolaris to discuss the production of organic cigars in Thrace, where George Pelargidis, political advisor of the American Embassy and Mrs. Anna Papadopoulou, also participated.
Markos Bolaris, as Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs, visited the Association on 27 December 2018, where he was informed about the problems of the residents of Drosero and the operation of the illegal mosques in the settlement.
IMXA, institute for Balkan Studies, is a pillar of support for ELPIDA. Ioannis Tsekouras, Naskou Perraki and the secretary Eleni Chaidia from IMXA visited the Association’s premises, attended remedial teaching activities financed by IMXA and had a discussion and planning for the continuation and strengthening of the actions in the next school year.
In October 2018, Sabiha Suleiman was in Athens, and held meetings with competent bodies. Specifically, she met in the office of Mr. Costas Tsiaras, and together with Mrs. Fotini Tomai-Konstantopoulou, to discuss social and political issues of Drosero and the Roma nationwide.
A meeting was also held with Ms. Bakoyannis, on an informal level. Ms. Bakoyannis has known the Associatiom since 2007, and the purpose of the meeting was to be informed about the news of Thrace.
On 13 September 2018, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Education, Research and Religions, George Angelopoulos, paid an official visit to the Association, following the request sent by the Association on the issue of all Roma children attending schools in Xanthi, outside the settlement.
In the spring of 2017, Mr. Kypourgos visited the Association and our settlement to create an episode for the show “The secrets of music”, which is broadcast on ERT. The episode was entitled “Egnatia Odos.”
In 2007, President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, organized for the Association to attend an event promoting Roma culture, with Vassilis and Sarantis Salea.
Meeting with the friend and supporter of the activities of the Association Sonia Sidera, public relations manager of the State Theater of Northern Greece, who helped us organize the performance “Traisarav.”
In 2009, the historian Sarantis Kargakos visited our Association in order to meet the children of the settlement and to tell them elements of our culture and the participation of the Roma in the Greek revolution, such as Karaiskakis.
In May 2019, in view of the elections, Panagiotis Lafazanis visited our Association, with the Roma MEP candidate Vassilis Stirokleas.
The Association had a visit from Angelos Syrigos, lawyer, associate professor of International Law and Foreign Policy at Panteion University and now member of parliament. Mr. Syrigos has visited our Association many times, including in 2010 with a group of students.
Visit of Mrs. Fotini Tomai-Konstantopoulou at our Association on 28 March 2019.
A photo exhibition by the Danish photographer Joakim Eskildsen entitled “The Roma Journeys” was held at the Hellenic American Union on 22 September till 22 October 2008.
On 25 September 2019, the Ambassador of Sweden Charlotte Sammelin, accompanied by her Advisor Patrik Svensson, paid a visit to ELPIDA.
COMMUNITY AND CULTURAL EVENTS
An important part of ELPIDA’s work is to build cohesion and solidarity within the community. The women of ELPIDA actively work to build community by organizing activities such as Christmas bazaars, collection of food and clothes for distribution to the needy and various celebrations in the settlement.
Ederlezi St. George
Ederlezi is a holiday dedicated to St. George, according to the old calendar, which is celebrated by all Roma around the world. On this day, each family each family makes a vow for the health of a child. Each house sacrifices a sheep and from its blood they place a dab on the forehead of the child. The dab of blood symbolizes the member of the family for whom the vow is made and the members of the settlement give wishes to the child.
The celebration that left history in the settlement was the Ederlezi of 2009. Many officials and notable people of the City of Xanthi, who had never before made a visit to Drosero participated in the celebrations. They included the president and members of the city council of Xanthi, regional officials, and the Director of the Office of Political Affairs, Alexandros Alexandris.
The women and young girls of ELPIDA organized the entire event. They cooked the traditional lamb and made pilaf with beef, the so-called kurbani, while the young girls undertook to decorate the tables and dance in costumes sewn by the women especially for this event. All members, students and visitors enthusiastically participated in the preparation.
The delicious food and sweet wine offered to the visitors, by volunteer boys and girls of the settlement, along with the sounds from the music played by the musicians of Drosero and the famous musician Ferus Mustafov kept the party going until the early morning hours.
International Day of the Roma, 8 April 2015
World Roma Day is celebrated worldwide by Roma every year on April 8, in remembrance of the First World Congress held in London on 8 April 1971, which laid the foundations for the international community to claim their rights.
The women of ELPIDA prepared traditional Roma food for the guests and decorated the space with paintings depicting Roma customs and traditions.
Young children under the guidance of the kindergarten teacher organized a music and dance event on the topic of equality and respect for diversity, while boys and girls of the settlement, students of the 8th High School read their reports and proposals on racism and poverty, which they presented in posters that decorated the walls of the Association’s center. The students’ reports were the product of a Human Rights training program they had followed.
Finally, Sabiha Suleiman spoke about the importance of this day, in Romani, the language of the Roma, about the cultural wealth of the Roma people and the responsibility that the people of Drosero have to promote and preserve it.
The event ended with dancing and music where the whole settlement participated. It took place in the framework of the implementation of the European program EduRom: Empowering Roma in Lifelong Learning Centers and at work through family education.
New Year (Nevo Bress)
On the 13th of January every year there is a celebration by the members of the association for the celebration of the New Year, according to the old calendar. The women cook bean soup, a traditional dish of the day and for sweets baklava or kataifi. Finally they cut the New Year pie, but not the usual sweet one. The traditional pie is made with cheese and rice, and is cooked on the stove. A coin is hidden in the pie, and the person who finds it will have good luck that year.
ELPIDA has also organized a Human Library event for the high school students of the community. The Roma teenagers of the settlement told true stories about the social problems they experience as a minority group, locally and nationally. Eight high school students from Drosero, Xanthi, became living books and traveled to be heard, to talk about their life and difficulties, but also to meet people who will rarely visit Drosero.
The Human Library was presented in Xanthi on 21 June 2015, in the courtyard of the Folklore and History Museum of Xanthi, in Athens, on 3-4 September 2015 at the Melina Cultural Center, and on 5-6 September 2015 at the Dutch Embassy.
Traisarav: A theater performance
The event took place at the small theater of Lazarist Monastery, on 2 June 2010. The title “Traisarav” means life and hope in the Roma language. The musical-theatrical event was presented by ELPIDA, in collaboration with the NGO “Ellinion”, at the Festival “Space of Action” of the State Theater of Northern Greece. The aim of the event was to highlight the culture of the Roma.
The history of the Roma was dramatized by a group of children and teenagers, with their teacher as the main narrator. Stories about their language, religion, their daily life, along with traditions associated with the defining moments of their lives: birth, marriage, death but also celebrations such as Ederlezi, the biggest celebration of the Roma – the celebration of spring. The event was introduced by Sabiha Suleiman. The contributors were: Texts: Theodora Leipsistinou, President of the NGO “Ellinion”, direction: Eleftheria Kostaki and musicians from Drosero: Emra Abedinoglou, Garip Hussein, Sebandin Demertzi and vocals, Filio Petropoulou.
Sar dikav me – “As I see it”
When the women of the club participated in the celebrations of the Historical Town of Xanthi by selling candles and handmade baskets, concurrently, in the Progressive Union of Xanthi, a photo exhibition by a group of children from Drosero was presented under the title “As I see it”. ELPIDA also presented theatrical events by the children of Drosero and held a two-day cultural event of the Association.
Tree planting in the small square of Drosero
On March 20, 2009, our Association, at the invitation of the Deputy Mayor of Xanthi, planted trees in the small square of Drosero. Kindergarten, elementary and high school children, who attend the remedial classes, as well as the women of the Association participated.
Events by dance groups of Drosero
On November 8-9, 2008, a Festival for children was held with the theme: “Bridges of Culture”, in cooperation with the Association with the Development of Xanthi Prefecture, SA.
The Dance of the Roma
The girls of the ELPIDA dance to popular Roma (and other) rhythms and taught the secrets of their dance to the invited guests.
The event was co-organized by ELPIDA and the Foundation of Thracian Art and Tradition and was presented to the public of Xanthi, on 10 February 2015, at the Foundation of Thracian Art and Tradition.
Re-enactment of a Roma wedding
In the context of the Folklore Festivals 2009 (43rd Xanthi Carnival) and in collaboration with the Foundation of Thracian Art and Tradition, the Association presented a Re-enactment of a Roma wedding. Young girls and boys from the settlement presented the wedding customs as they have been passed down through the generations and continue to this day. From the agreement of the consuls, the preparation of the bride and groom, to the sherbet, the henna, the dance of the newlyweds and the feast, the attendees had the opportunity to experience a Roma wedding.
Family care event
“Hygeine and Family Care Counseling for Roma women in Drosero” was organized in the community in cooperation with the Foundation of Thracian Art and Tradition. The program included:
On-site family visits.
Recording of hygiene and health problems and referral to health services (Hospital, Health Center, IKA, etc.) for treatment.
Providing first aid equipment and personal hygiene to all families.
Providing consulting support throughout the program.
Creating an educational video for first aid and observance of hygiene and child care measures.
This was followed by a theatrical performance – adaptation of “PEACE”, by Aristophanes, by the young and very talented actors from Drosero, which excited and moved the large audience, while the Foundation of Thracian Art and Tradition provided the participants with first aid kits and medicines.
Greek Scouts Celebration
In 2014, the celebration of World Scouting Day by the local Xanthi branch of the Greek scouts took place in Drosero. This celebration included a lot of fun and play with the children of the settlement. They participated in many games and Romani lessons were taught to the members of the Xanthi Scouts. They made new friends and rekindled the old acquaintances.
2016: Sabiha Suleiman was nominated in the category “Personality of the European Roma Spirit” for the 2016 ERSA Award, given by the Association for Culture, Education and Communication (ACEC). The president of Elpida was selected from among 65 nominations from 23 European Countries for the final round of the award and is among the three top nominations in this category.
2013: Gold Medal ‘for resistance to be Turkish under pressure, the Muslim Roma of Thrace’ from the Rotary Clubs of Thessaloniki. In 2013, the Seventh Rotary Club of Thessaloniki held its 61st awards ceremony titled ‘Beneficence, Social Contribution & Self-sacrifice’. The President of the Rotary Clubs in Thessaloniki, Mr. Tousinas, spoke about the principles and the purpose of Rotary. The President of ELPIDA, Sabiha Suleiman, received the award from the President of the Jury, Mr. Aspasidis.
2010: Sabiha Suleiman, president of ELPIDA was chosen by the US Mission in Greece to participate in the State Department’s International Visitors Leadership Program, which is held in various US cities, including Washington, New York and San Francisco.
2009: 2nd International Award for Women of Courage 2009 for successful and sustained effort to promote issues of the Roma community in Thrace (nominated by the American Mission in Greece). The awards were given at the United States Consulate in Thessaloniki. The US Ambassador Mr. Daniel Speckhard gave the prize to Sabiha Suleiman.
2007: In November 2007, the President of the Hellenic Republic, Mr. Karolos Papoulias, gave an award to the President of the Roma Women’s Association of Drosero, Sabiha Suleiman, in recognition of the work of the organization. It was the first time that a Roma woman gave a speech in the old Parliament building, where she invited Greek society to treat Roma children as its own.
2007: Award Ceremony of collective action Islets Quality 2007 from the Citizens Movement for an Open Society and the Greek Guiding.
The book of activities
The Book of Activities: 2006-2019 documents all activities in detail of ELPIDA since its foundation till 2019, and includes all official correspondence with relevant authorities by the Association. The book is only available in Greek, but if you would like further information about any of the programs or activities listed in the previous sections, please feel free to contact us.
Educational Programme of America
The President of the Women Association of Drosero Xanthi «ELPIDA»