04 February 1999
by Jiri Tosner
Katerina, coordinator of the program PìtP - as the program Big Brothers Big Sisters is called in Czech - in Prague, told me that until recently Misa had no inkling that he was an adopted child - and he certainly did not know that he was a Romany gypsy.
This is the story told by Ludek, a volunteer participating in the program PìtP, a 20-year-old student at a professional health-care school and future rehabilitation worker. And he continued: -With the best possible intentions Mísa's overanxious and frightened white mother‚ brought him up in a mildly racist manner - thus when Misa saw in the street some Romany gypsies he called out to me: Look, these are gypsies, they steal!
The problems of Misa's identity, which Ludek quite unexpectedly discovered, were discussed at several supervisory sessions with Misa's mother, Ludek and also with Misa. The matter is as yet not closed. However, Misa's mother now understands that the attitude has to change, as it would do Misa more harm then good. Ludek, being a man, is as yet an exception - most of the volunteers are girls, the ratio being 10 : 1. I would say that we are living in a patriarchal system and human concerns are more a matter for women, is Ludek shrugs his shoulders. -Chaps think that it is too petty for them. And I almost don't feel like a chap... I don't mean that I am a sissy, but I hate arrogance and violence. I always got on better with girls. Ludek heard about the program from his school pals. The program PìtP helps him compensate the last traces of his own problems. Today one does not notice it, but because his parents frequently moved from one place to another, he often did not have time to make lasting and deeper friendships and, in consequence, felt isolated and lonely. Needless to say, his self-confidence suffered, affecting his standing in the family. His parents nagged him all the time telling him that he was too dependent and immature. When he told them that he passed the selection and went through the training of volunteers for the program PìtP, his father's reaction was: -We'll see how it goes, you can't even properly look after yourself. By now Ludek has been meeting Misa once a week for over a year - and his parents have changed their attitude and his prestige in the family has increased. Ludek's greater self-confidence also improved his communication with his peers. His life has changed - he not only has a new young chum with whom he can talk, but at the joint seminars and supervisions of the program PìtP he found new friends - and he found his place among young people with similar interests and a similar scale of values. It is difficult to say whether the program PìtP gives more to the young Romany gypsy or to his big chum Ludek. Today they could no longer after school just roam the streets without any purpose.
With Misa I try to spend as much time as possible outdoors, say Ludek, -we go cycling, although Misa grumbles, especially when it goes uphill. Once we spent the weekend with Misa's aunt. For me, too, the program PìtP is important, explains
Ludek. -When I was Misa's age I did not have time to make friends, this is why I understand Misa's feelings and needs. Moreover, when in the early days I did not quite know how to behave with him, regular supervision helped - at these gatherings we can talk not only about the problems with our small chums, but also about our own troubles. And that is always useful, at twenty we are still tentatively exploring the world and our place in it.i.
Hestia - Volunteer Center Prague