American settled down in a village of eastern Slovakia, helps Roma women

Some of the women found a job in Košice factories, where they can use their skills.

(Source: František Iván, TASR)

Ten years ago she arrived to the eastern Slovak village of Rankovce (near Košice) where the majority of citizen are Roma. She decided to stay. She bought a house, learnt Slovak and found a new home.

“I want to help poor people and there are Roma people here,” American Baptists missionary Kristen Wollam talks about her reasons, as quoted by the TASR newswire.

Wollam established a tailor’s workshop in Rankovce and she is head of the civic association Hope for Romas, dedicated to Roma women and girls. She teaches them how to sew and make bags and blankets. These handmade products are sold mainly in Austria and the US, where they are very popular.

“I would like Roma women to gain self-confidence and have a good job,” she said, as quoted by TASR.

Relaxation and learning

Many people in Slovakia think that Romas do not want to work, she continues, but her experience is different.

“If they do something they can be proud of, something nice, they are willing to work,” she noted for TASR, adding that these women would like to sew more than she has time.

Several Roma women who learnt how to sew bought their own tailoring machine and so they can sew at home what they need. Some of them found a job in Košice factories where they can use their skills.

“I learnt to sew here, firstly we sewed bags, blankets and then other things as well,” said Adriana Fliťárová, one of the Rankovce citizens, working in the workshop, as quoted by TASR.

“We were happy that we as women can make such beautiful things,” Fliťarová continues, as quoted by TASR, adding that once a week they enter the workshop, both relaxing and learning new things.

The For a Better Life association is also active in the village. This one is focused on embroidery. They work with girls who are studying to be seamstresses and leading them to maintain local Roma embroidery. They embroider tablecloths, bags or small bags for herbs, filled and distributed in Slovakia or abroad, said founder of the association, Františka Ondrašiková.

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