In an effort to break down barriers and dispose of bigotry and prejudices, the Hradec Králové region has created a program to help bring together the Roma minority with the majority of Czech society. The program is called Come To Us For Coffee and works by inviting mainstream members of society to Roma households for conversations over coffee.
The idea behind the program is that by introducing Czech’s to Roma on a personal basis, their prejudices and assumptions will fade away, and they will be able to see the Roma people as people, rather than stereotypes. It is based on studies of intergroup contact, the fact that people who have increased personal exposure to minorities are less likely to believe in societal prejudices, but instead, will form their own individual opinions based on their experiences.
Andrea Tibenská, a Roma psychotherapist, has been working alongside multiple non-profit organizations to establish the program. The Roma people are largely excluded from society, and common prejudices make them skeptical about further integration with mainstream Czech culture.
The isolation of the Roma population has actually made it difficult to find candidates willing to host others for coffee. Inversely, they have not struggled to find willing Czechs to meet Roma hosts, and interest is growing. The founders of the organization believe that as the program grows, interest and participation will increase exponentially, as people are more accustomed and comfortable with the idea.
The program seems to come from a genuine place, and has the potential to bring communities together, making lives easier and happier. Based on studies of how we form prejudices, the program’s approach to reducing prejudice through increasing personal exposure is likely effective. However, at the moment the program is small in scale, and its reach is low. Despite not having the ability to effect widespread change, the program could be a model for similar grassroots movements.