The Roma: Behind the Scenes with Sanjay

ADRA was lucky to have Sanjay Thomas join our crew and act as our “A Closer Walk” host in the field, experiencing the reality of humanitarian aid work. He shared the following photos and thoughts from his time with ADRA and the Roma community in Albania.

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Two street kids are clamoring around the legs of an American tourist.  Little hands tug at shirttails and shining eyes stare up at the man from the west.  It’s obvious: they want something.

When I went to Albania to film the people derogatively known as “gypsies,” I had a few stereotypes tucked away in my brain.  I’m not the kind of person who harbors stereotypes—I like to think I am open-minded and prejudice-free—but when these little Roma children started grabbing at me and pulling me every which way, my first thought was great, they want something.

Just then, a young boy of nine or ten detached himself from my leg and darted into a small roadside shop.  He reemerged moments later clutching a big red popsicle in his little hands, with a big red smile splitting his little face.

Then he handed his prize popsicle to me.

It was one of those moments in life that become a still frame in the brain, where everything you remember about a certain time and place is summarized and symbolized by a kind gesture and a great big smile.

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And yes, they did want something from me, and they were determined to clamor and tug until they got it.  They wanted to play with me.  More specifically, they wanted to use me as a human jungle gym.  And they did.  Every chance they got.  I’m telling you, one small group of Roma children has enough energy to power a small city.  Add another gaggle of kids and a few more human jungle gyms, and they could light up the world.  They certainly lit up the camera with their bright smiles and beaming faces, and our first episode of A Closer Walk would have been empty without them.ALBANIA 14-0869

I visited several more countries after that for the documentary series, and they were all amazing and unique in their own way.  But I will never forget that smiling boy, that big popsicle, the clamoring kids, and the spirited Roma community.