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Tribute to Martin Emerson

7 January 2005

Martin Emerson joined Minority Rights Group International in 1995 when he had already achieved success in many fields of life – he had played Rugby for Wasps, Cricket for Wales, had been a Parliamentary Candidate for the Liberal Party and Mayor of Twickenham. When he joined MRG, Martin had accumulated years of experience in education, in particular distance education with traveller communities and most recently, he had applied his experience to work with the Roma in Eastern Europe. At this point, he could have reasonably retired and taken a back seat, but he had much too much to offer to do that.

Martin led MRG’s work with the Roma for eight years the success of our programmes during this period owes a huge amount to his experience, insights and dedication. Martin made sure that we moved from working with non-Roma organizations on Roma issues to supporting emerging Roma organizations and building their capacity to represent their own communities. Through his wide network, Martin introduced the idea of mentoring to MRG and developed and ran 3 successful programmes for young Roma activists based on a mentoring methodology that was then unique in the region.

Martin brought huge energy and charm to his work. He had a huge network of people who kept in touch with him because of their respect for him personally and professionally. There is no doubt that because of his personal intervention, because of the ideas that he had and the programmes that he designed and led, the lives of literally hundreds of young Roma in Eastern Europe were improved and transformed. Because other organizations are copying the mentoring approach that he introduced, literally thousands and thousands of other young disadvantaged people are benefiting from the example that he set and the methods that he spent much time developing. Martin died of cancer on 28 November 2004. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.