Growing up Roma

Being built just beside the camp it the tallest building in Shkoder which will become a upscale apartment building. Once the building becomes occupied the future of the camp will be jeopardized.

By Wes Rowe

Gaz Dema, 2, runs barefoot, muddy-kneed and with a full diaper through a minefield of broken glass and scrap metal. Geese follow him, eager to eat his scanty piece of bread. Though barely larger than a goose himself, snotty nosed Dema unknowingly evades them by hopping into his mother’s arms.

Dema lives in an encampment with about 40 other Roma families in the city of Shkoder in northern Albania. Life in this camp is very hard for Dema and the almost 75 other children living without proper nourishment, running water or adequate clothing. Most children are unregistered in the city, often times because the parents have lost the paperwork. As a result, most children have limited access to schools and medical care. The typical Roma childhood is about half the time of the average American. Boys begin working with there fathers around the age of 10 and it is not uncommon for them to be married by 12. Girls start working in the home as young as eight and many will have multiple children by the age of 20.

The Roma people have been living in Albania for over 600 years, continually dealing with prejudice. During the Albanian communist period, many Roma had the chance to participate in regular society. They could live in homes, attend schools and access jobs. However, the fall of communism slide Roma people into unemployment and discrimination. Despite their struggle to obtain basic civil liberties, Roma people call many Eastern European countries home. Unfortunately, Albania’s status as one of the poorest nations places their Roma population in even deeper destitution.

Seated on the edge of Lake Shkoder in Northern Albania is one of the poorest Roma camps in all of Albania. The 41 homes in the camp have electricty but no runnig water and most families survive on $3 per day. The average family size is 7. Shkoder Albania, November 2010
Victor is 11 yrs old and already works daily with his father collecting scrap metal. The transition from boy to man happens at a very young age among Roma and it is not uncommon for boys to get married around the age of puberty. Shkoder Albania, November 2010
Homes in the camp are very crowded and small lacking any privacy and it is most common for several generations to live under one roof. Shkoder Albania, November 2010
During the rainy season many of the men can’t work leaving families without money and children without food. Shkoder Albania 2010
Tyson and his aunt search the streets of Shkoder for metal that can be recycled for money. His aunt takes him with her everynight because his mother is mentally habdicapped and cannot care for him.

Childhood is very short lived for both Roma boys and girls. At a young age boys begin to go to work with their father and begin to mimic their habits such as gambling, drinking, and smoking
Due to te close proximity to the lake the camp floods every few years leaving the residents unable to work, sleep , and without anywhere else to go. Shkoder albania November 2010
Horse drawn wagon is one of the more common forms of transportation amoung the Roma and because of this they are often hassled by local police. Men in the camp begin at a very young age making their living collecting scrap metal and without some form of transportation their jobs are impossible
Sara Dajlani wipes condensation off the window as her father arrives home from work.
Though the camp floods often forcing famlies out of there homes, the younger children seem to not notice and go on playing while they are still young enough to.
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