Tackling inequality, language barriers and confusion over differing cultures are some of the aims of a project run for, and by, Roma people in Margate.
Roma in the Lead is headed by Red Zebra – a charity which aims to bring people together – and co-ordinated with the help of members of the Roma community.
The project, which also runs in Folkestone and Dover, aims to break down barriers so Roma people can get more involved with the communities around them and break down prejudice and misunderstanding.
In Margate there are some 3,000 Roma people who have left their countries, such as Slovakia, in a search for better chances to get work and education.
But they still often find barriers due to language and culture differences.
The Roma in the Lead project at Cliftonville Community Centre is working to break these down and help Roma people get involved in Margate life.
Project co-ordinator Lydia Martin said: “In each of our locations there is someone employed from the Roma community to run activities responding to the needs of the community or between communities. The aim is to support the Roma to be included, to achieve and to contribute.”
Monika Duzvova organises activities in Margate, including family time sessions, dancing, youth sessions and craft activities.
Last month women in the group knitted hat and boot sets and dolls for little ones at Margate’s QEQM Hospital.
It is a scheme they want to continue this year.
Monika said: “The knitting came from family time. They made te dols for children and then came up with the idea to do something for newborns at the hospital. I’m very proud of them.
“We are looking at doing more for charity or maybe selling to use towards family activities.”
The work at the community centre also includes helping with forms and communication with Thanet council and government departments and schools and holding English classes.
Monika said: “There are difficulties with language and culture barriers. I think it is very important to involve people of all different nationalities.
“We have a good team at Hartsdown Academy that helps with translating. From this month we are working with Cliftonville primary school on a family connect project supporting parents so they can support their children in education and communicate with the school.”
Education and work are the key attractions for Roma people coming to the UK.
Monika said: “Roma people grow up in different conditions. There is discrimination in education and jobs. I find that very sad. Many people come here for the opportunity of a better life, of getting a job and education for their children. The Roma in Margate are very thankful to the UK for offering these opportunities.
“Many are worried about Brexit as they are EU citizens and they find the bureaucracy unnerving but Roma in the Lead is helping them understand the processes, making sure they are informed and supporting them with the applications.”
Roma in the Lead is funded for three years by the Big Lottery. It is in its second year of the grant and is hoping to be able to secure further funding.