The delegation from Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG) from L to R: Ledicia Suarez Rodriguez, Beatriz Micaela Carrillo de los Reyes, Ana Maria Segovia Montoya, Fernando Morion Fernandez, Maria del Carmen Jimenez Borja, with Sandra Khalil from the US State Department.
Astoria, NY –On Friday, September 14 CIANA entertained a special delegation sponsored by the US State Department, in an exchange of ideas and expertise. A delegation from Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG) (Roma Secretariat Foundation) under the International Visitor Leadership Program shared its ongoing work in improving the lives of the Roma community in Spain as CIANA shared its insights about integrating new immigrants into the New York community for the past 12 years.
The Spanish government used to try to administer the direct services that FSG works in to its Roma population, but the community was very resistant and suspicious of the government’s efforts, says Ana Maria Segovia Montoya, a Roma journalist who is Deputy Director for Advocacy and Rights at FSG. That changed in the 1990s when the government turned over direct services to FSG, then known as the Asociación Secretariado General Gitano (ASGG) (Roma Secretariat General Association).
The delegation expressed admiration for the work that CIANA does in working directly with new immigrants, particularly with the family-like atmosphere of CIANA’s office, and with its spirit of possibilities and full integration into American society.
“We’re trying to employ the same [holistic model] in Spain,” Segovia Montoya says.
The Roma face the challenge of not being accepted as full citizens in Spain despite their citizenship. About 500,000 and 800,000 Roma are Spanish citizens -about 1-2% of its total population.
FSG serves over 30,000 clients with over 55 offices and 700 members of staff throughout Spain. Much like CIANA, they believe in a holistic approach to address the needs of whole families, particularly in the areas of housing, education, youth, gender equality, employment, and health.
As Emira Habiby Browne, the Founder and Executive Director of CIANA noted, our clients have similarly been afraid of our government, and like FSG, CIANA fills that important gap of giving them direct services in an atmosphere that is both warm and sensitive to their needs and cultures.
“I believe that if you’re working with the communities, you know what’s going on,” Habiby Browne says. By knowing that she says, you can best serve them, which is exactly what CIANA does.
The meeting was also attended by Beatriz Carrillo de los Reyes, President of Federation Romani Women’s Association (FAKALI); Maria del Carmen Jimenez Borja, Equality Advisor at FSG; Fernando Morion Fernandez, an advisor at the Department of Education at FSG; Ledicia Suarez Rodriguez, Inclusion Programs Expert for the Regional Government of Galicia, Spain; and Sandra Khalil, Program Coordinator for the US State Department’s Office of International Visitors Leadership Program.