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Sri Kumar Vishwanathan- Ambassador Portriat

posted Feb 25, 2012, 8:55 PM by Suresh V   [ updated Feb 25, 2012, 9:15 PM ]


He was born in Quilon, state Kerala, India.

He graduated from the Faculty of Natural Sciences at Patrice Lumumba Peoples' Friendship University in Moscow (his majors were physics and mathematics) in 1990.

He underwent trainee-ship in a number of British and American schools/universities in the following years (e.g. London University, International Visitor Leadership Program in the USA). He worked as a high-school teacher of physics at the bilingual branch of Hejčín Secondary Grammar School in Olomouc between 1991 and 1997.

He is a co-founder of a Czech-British bilingual school, at which he was responsible for the creation of a new curriculum. He has focused on Roma minority in the Czech Republic since 1997. He has worked with Roma people affected by floods as a street-worker and a community worker in Slezská Ostrava. He co-operated on the creation of the social fieldwork methods in Roma community and on bringing the methods into practice in the CR.

He also collaborated on the basic school reforms and the revisions of the psychological testing on children. He is one of the initiators of a project called Vesnička soužití (The Village of Coexistence). Within the frame of this project, 30 Roma and non-Roma families built themselves a new house which replaced the older one destroyed by floods.He founded a civil association called Vzájemné soužití (Mutual Coexistence) together with the students of Ostrava University and Masaryk’s University in Brno in 1998.

He is now the chairman and the director of the association. He was appointed a civil member of the Government Council for Human Rights in 1999 (again in 2003 and 2005), a member of the Bridge People UNHCR in Prague for the consultations of the interethnic co-existence in the CR with the Embassies of the EU states.He has systematically focused on human-legal and social issues, fieldwork, community work, educational work, educational reform, institutional education of children and the development of Roma communities in Ostrava etc. since the 1990’s.

He has won a number of prizes: František Kriegel Award of Charta 77 (1998) for a personal participation in convergence and mutual understanding between Roma and non-Roma people; Prix Irene (2003) awarded by Tolerance civil association for improving interethnic life;

Alice Garrigue Masaryk Prize (2005) awarded by the US Ambassador in the CR, Mr. William Cabaniss, for the improvement of human rights and the promotion of social justice;
The Ashoka Fellow Prize (2007) etc.

Why I became an ambassador?

It is relatively easy to discern the problems facing the Roma. They are very clear to identify and define.

The Roma need public support for tackling the problems. 

Instead of support, however, the public tend to hold the Roma as responsible for the problems they face. 

I think that this distorted opinion comes from gross public ignorance and a lack of clear perspective on the part of the public.

The Roma community thus suffers from decades of unresolved problems. Money and resources tend to be invested in Roma communities, by external agencies, without any real conviction that the problems of the Roma are not of ethnic origin, but systemic.

The situation of the Roma is a litmus test for dire social and economic problems affecting or threatening to affect the Czech society. The problems faced by the Roma are an early warning of problems in store for the whole of the country.

As an ambassador, I see my role as a campaigner for increased public awareness of the situation of the Roma and the problems facing the society at large.

“My aim for the European Year is fighting poverty through Cohesion.”