31 May 2012
The British Red Cross in Birmingham will be marking Gypsy Roma Travellers History Month, which runs throughout June, with an event to celebrate the success of its Circles Project
The project, which is funded by Birmingham City Council’s Support People programme, helps gypsy, Roma and travelling communities living within the Birmingham city limits with housing and tenancy related issues, such as finding suitable and affordable housing.
It also guides service users on accessing community facilities and local services such as health and social care providers and providing information on welfare, employment and education.
One person to have already benefitted from the support of the Circles project is Nadia Iorga, 35, from Strechford, Birmingham.
Nadia, a single mother from the Roma community, was barely able to support her five children when she moved from Romania to Birmingham in 2008 hoping to find a better way of life. When the Red Cross first started supporting Nadia, she and her family were living in extreme poverty in a tiny, two-roomed flat accessed by two flights of rail-free steps and a broken gangplank.
Nadia explained: “Back then it was very difficult. We had nothing to eat, I didn’t know how to add credit on my electricity card, and because we didn’t understand each other the benefits agency suddenly stopped my family tax credits.”
For a while Nadia and her family lived off donations of flour given by the local church and they had no heating throughout the winter months.
Being a migrant made life hard for Nadia. She said: “Being from another country, especially Romania, people looked at me differently and I couldn’t find anyone to help me. I didn’t know where to go or what to do to support my children. My son would tell me ‘I’m hungry’ but there was nothing I could do.”
Finally, Nadia was put in touch with the Red Cross. Through the Circles project Nadia received food parcels, nappies and electricity tokens. They also helped her access the benefits she was entitled to and find accommodation suited to her families needs.
Mick Quigley, team leader for the Circles project and Nadia’s case worker, said: “We believe the Circles project really can transform people’s lives. When we first met Nadia she was living in very dangerous conditions. She had no food or income and none of her children were accessing education.
“The support we were able to give Nadia means she is now in affordable accommodation, her children all attend school and are doing very well and she has access to health care.”
Nadia finds it difficult to find the words to thank Mick and the Circles project for the help they have given her. She said: “They made it so that my kids and I could survive. I cannot find enough words to thank them for everything they did and how they treated my family. Now, every time I see a family in a situation similar to mine I tell them to contact the Red Cross because I know they can help them.”
The celebrations of the Circles project will be taking place on Thursday 7 June at the Red Cross offices in Camp Hill. Beneficiaries of the services, both past and present, will gather to highlight some of the issues, prejudices and stereotypes faced by their communities but also to showcase their Roma history and celebrate the contributions the community makes to society. Partner organisations and representatives from the education and health services will also attend.
Nadia’s son, Dimitru, will be playing his keyboard and for Nadia it will be a very proud moment. “My family now has a normal life. I can feel proud of going into parks or walking with my children on the street. I am forever grateful to the Circles project and the Red Cross for helping me and my children.”
The Circles project is available to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities currently living within the City of Birmingham. The support offered is free and confidential.
The Red Cross are currently looking for Romanian or Spanish speaking volunteers to act as interpreters for the service. They should have good communication skills, enjoy meeting people and be compassionate and sympathetic to those facing crisis.
Anyone interested in volunteering as an interpreter for the service should contact Angela Alves at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
For more information on the British Red Cross please visit: http://www.redcross.org.uk
Notes to editors
The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies.
We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and move on with their lives.
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