Viola Popenko

January 15, 2018

As a CEU- REF beneficiary, I have the opportunity to study in an international environment and complement my practical background with theoretical knowledge in the field of Human Rights. It is important to state, that only because of improved language and personal skills during my studying at Roma Graduate Preparation Program I can fully express myself now in academical life in CEU.  From my personal experience I can state, that Roma Graduate Preparation is the program that completely prepare students for further academical studies. As it is happened with me, I improved my English language skills, highligly qualificative tutors from the Legal Department developed my critical thinking in the area of Human Rights and I started to understand more in contemporary challenges of Roma community.
Back in Ukraine, I was involved in the NGO sector, starting my long journey from the grassroots organization ‘Neve Roma’, where I assisted lawyers and collected data from Roma communities in the northern region of Ukraine. After some time, I was faced with the problem of school segregation of Roma children, and I was doing my internship at the All-Ukrainian foundation ‘Step by Step’. Participation in civil society gave me strength to run my personal project and present to the Ukrainian audience the first informational portal for Roma Youth ‘Jakha’. My current experience is connected with obtaining the full membership of the Advisory Board in an integral part of the Open Society Foundations: the International Renaissance Foundation, where I am writing comments for the projects from Roma and pro-Roma NGOs in Ukraine and examining their relevance to contemporary situation of Roma communities.
I hope I will be able to find myself as a highly qualified specialist in Ukraine and apply my new experience in my home country for strengthening Roma Rights. Being the first Roma student from Ukraine enrolled in the Master’s Degree program at CEU, I understand the level of responsibility that I have now. I believe that my studies at Central European University at non-degree program and MA program will give inspiration for Roma youth in Ukraine to continue their studies outside the country. Therefore, I know that after my graduation, I will put all my efforts and knowledge into bringing equality and accountability for the Roma community in Ukraine.