In 2013 and 2014, the Dialogue-Pheniben Foundation (previous name of Foundation Towards Dialogue) carried out two editions of a workshop project, which was intended for a high school students. Both editions of the project were carried out from the funds of the Minister of Administration and Digitization (2013 edition was also a part of the Government Program for the Roma Community in Poland).
The aim of the project was to make young people aware that the ethnic or cultural differences are not something worse or threatening and it is completely opposite, they will do no harm and they can enriche us. Therefore building your own national identity on the principle of differentiation is a negative phenomenon. Young people must realize that Polishness cannot be defined by the colour of skin or type of clothing, but it should be sought in appropriate attitude and behavior, and the main factor that unites the nation is a shared history, even if it is difficult and tragic. Therefore, the historical knowledge of young people should be expanded, especially in the aspects that have been overlooked. Therefore the overarching goal of the project was to spread knowledge about the Roma, with particular emphasis on the period of World War II, informations about the dangers coming from intolerance, xenophobic and racist attitudes, and to provide tools and solutions that can be used to oppose and fight against this type of attitudes and behaviours. Our intention while carrying out this project was also to achieve the following specific aims: 1) Making young people aware that the history of the Roma is a part of the history of Poland and Europe; 2) Shaping social attitudes towards recognizing fundamental human rights and the needs of people experiencing discrimination, with a particular focus on the Roma; 3) Activities promoting and disseminating knowledge about the Roma minority in Poland in the field of their socio-economic situation and in terms of their culture, traditions, customs, history and language; 4) Dissemination of knowledge in the field of human rights and counteracting negative social phenomena such as racism, discrimination and xenophobia; 5) Promoting the ideas and values of an educational society, tolerance, multiculturalism, and cultural dialogue; 6) Making people aware of social threats resulting from misunderstandings, lack of knowledge, intolerance and hatred and also phenomena of racial, ethnic or religious background by recalling the experience of the nations from the times of World War II; 7) Developing a mechanism to counteract all forms of pathological social phenomena such as racism, discrimination and xenophobia among the recipients of the project; 8) Promoting the participation of the Roma – witnesses of the Holocaust – in the education process of the youth.
Both editions of the project were carried out in the three stages: Stage I – the preparatory one – at this time we constituted a project team consisted of a coordinator and a financial specialist. We contracted the trainers, developed a workshop program and recruited participants which would take part in the workshops. Stage II – conducting workshops. In each edition there were 6 meetings in Oświęcim, each lasted 6 hours, and were carried out in three parts: I. The first one was a 1.5-hour tour in the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum conducted by a qualified guide, which also included the Roma national exhibition in the block 13. II. The second part was in form of a meeting with a witness – a former Roma prisoner of Nazi camps – which ended with a discussion. III. The third part was a workshop on the topic of the history and culture of the Roma, containing an anti-discrimination component, in which young people, through interactive methods, acquainted with modern manifestations of discrimination, racism and xenophobia. The one-time meeting was for about 15 people. Meeting participants were provided with catering which was necessary due to the length of the classes. Stage III – completion of the project and preparation for substantive and financial settlement.