ROMA residents of Govanhill have been working to challenge discrimination while cleaning up the streets.

During the past four years the population of the two-square mile area in the city's South Side has swelled from 10,000 to 14,000, with much of the increase thought to be Roma immigrants.

The extra 3000 to 4000 living in the area has put pressure on housing and infrastructure – and led to tension in Govanhill.

But now the Roma people, from the Czech Republic

Slovakia and Romania have joined forces to take part in litter-picking, cleaning back courts and planting trees.

They have formed the Clean Green Team – and for the past 12 weeks they have been giving 25 hours a week of their time in exchange for English language classes at Langside College.

A total of 10 Roma volunteers joined forces with Govanhill Community Development Trust, local environmental group Great Gardens and Oxfam.

Linda Gillespie, chairwoman of Great Gardens, said: "The group has been helping us plant trees and do other bits of gardening work.

"We have been really impressed by their commitment and their hard work.

"While we have been out and about, we have had people asking us what we are doing and they have been really pleased with the work we have done."

The volunteers have come from a new group called Romano Lav – or Roma Voice. It was set up to help combat discrimination and to improve relations in the community.

Marcela Adamova, an Oxfam Scotland development worker, helped start Romano Lav and works with the Clean Green volunteers to help with translation.

She said: "The volunteers were very keen to help clean up Govanhill.

"They are enjoying doing something useful in their neighbourhood and have enjoyed meeting with each other to do good things locally.

"Their work is also actively challenging existing perceptions of the Roma community."

As well as their volunteer work, Clean Green Team members attended English classes in Samaritan House, which is the headquarters of Govanhill Housing Association. The classes were run by Langside College staff and staff from Glasgow Regeneration Agency gave advice on finding work.

It is hoped the volunteers' experience will help them secure employment.

Some of the people involved have now joined the housing association's Backcourts Initiative, to revamp tenement gardens.

Lyn Ewing, chairwoman of Govanhill Community Development Trust, said: "The Clean Green Team is an excellent example of people working to improve their community.

"It has been a pleasure for the Trust to support the work of the team because they have helped to make Govanhill a cleaner place and improved the local environment by planting trees.

"All too often Govanhill's Roma population is blamed for many of the problems of the area, so it is great to see a group addressing these misconceptions and showing others they can make a difference."

Now the pilot has finished, bosses are looking to expand the scheme and run further Clean Green Team projects.

Glasgow Community & Safety Services and Glasgow City Council Land and Environmental Services also gave support to the project.

A council spokesman said: "The Clean Green Team is a great example of the partnership we have in Govanhill working for the benefit of all the community.

"For a variety of reasons, tidying up the area has proved to be a major challenge so the extra hands to get the job done have to be welcome.

"The fact this leads to opportunities for members of the Roma community to develop their English language skills is a definite plus."

The spokesman added: "The Roma people have suffered discrimination down through history, so anything that helps to break down the barriers they face in everyday society is a positive step forward."

Community bosses hope this initiative will help improve community relations and bridge the cultural gap between Govanhill residents and the new arrivals.

Marcela added: "Roma people want the same things as everyone else in Scotland – a decent job, a decent wage, decent housing and decent opportunities for their families."