René Cassin is a UK based Jewish Human Rights Organisation that works to promote and protect universal human rights drawing on Jewish experience and values. One of its flagship campaigns is the René Cassin – AJA Fellowship Programme, which aims to create a movement of young Jewish social activists, equipping them with the skills and passion to promote social justice and human rights both locally and globally. Part of the programme includes a study tour to Budapest, meeting with various human rights organisations and activists, including the Charity Taxi Project.
We had heard about the Charity Taxi Service Project and indeed a number of us had been involved in similar projects collecting mainly for refugees in the UK. We had also heard predominantly from privileged NGO types about the plight of the Roma on the previous days of the programme.
We helped to set up the good market and met some of the community leaders. We then spent some time drawing with some of the children as members of the community went around and collected items out of the leftovers with shoes and toys proving particularly popular. The remaining resources were stored for future use when more might be able to afford the nominal price.
We then met with a community leader and community organiser, who answered our questions about their experience. We tried to understand their stories despite the language barrier they were very frank and answered even the most precise questions fully providing additional details and being open about disagreements over issues such as relations with non-Roma in the community
Many of us felt that we learnt more when we went to the Roma residential areas with food parcels and in people’s homes talked to families and children about their lives and saw living conditions that by most modern standards would be considered inadequate. We also thought interactions with people on the street got a sense of the complexities of the process of handing out food parcels and goods in a village where there is so much need.
The taxi project is a compassionate admirable response to the needs to a struggling community. It does a small amount to make the recipients’ lives better and inspires and is dependent on the continued spark of humanity. Hopefully like many good initiatives the ideas that we heard about to expand the project can make even better suited the community needs and able to make more of a difference.