Date: 21-11-2018

NEWS - 'Prejudice against Roma can be Overcome,' experts say.

An international event held by TOY for Inclusion shared achievements and lessons learned over the past two years. Thanks to the work of local communities and professionals, the TOY for Inclusion Play Hubs became the gateway to kindergarten and school for many Romani children.

On the eve of Universal Children’s Day, TOY for Inclusion shared its results. The event in Ghent, Belgium, gathered municipalities, practitioners and civil society to discuss the inclusion of Romani children and families.

‘Wherever segregation happens, there might be non-Roma people who want to meet their Roma neighbors in a safe and welcoming environment. Some cities and villages might not have places like that. That place could be a Play Hub”, says Stanislav Daniel, Coordinator of the Romani Early Years Network.

Over the past two years, the project has created eight Play Hubs for young children and families in seven European Union countries: one in Belgium, Croatia, Latvia, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia and two in Italy; obtaining very quickly extraordinary results:

- Improved the transition experience of Romani children to schools.
- Improved children’s preparedness for formal education.
- Increased trust of Roma communities in the local services.
- Increased trust between Roma and non-Roma communities.

‘I wish all school principals to open a Play Hub in their school or kindergarten. Our children talk about the Play Hub during the day and plan meetings there after school. In this way, meetings among Roma and non-Roma families become part of the education system,’ says Peter Strážik, school principal and local team coordinator of the Play Hub in Spišský Hrhov (Slovakia). TOY for Inclusion prepares children for formal education and helps the schools being prepared for their arrival at every new school year.

Some Numbers
Over 2018, the TOY for Inclusion Play Hubs have been providing opportunities for children, adults and communities to integrate and develop. Here are some numbers:

  • About 3200 children have participated to the Play Hub activities. An estimated 35% of children were from Roma origin.
  • About 80 workshops and info-sessions were held for Roma and non-Roma adults: including parenting support, intergenerational activities, hand-craft and toy-making workshops, info-sessions for parents in cooperation with other community services.
  • Roughly 25% of workshop leaders were Roma.

‘The Play Hub can prepare steps towards the end of discrimination. It’s important that Roma and non-Roma parents meet. This might be a first step but small steps can lead towards bigger steps,’ said Szilvia Rézműves of Partners Hungary Alapítvány, who attended with two Roma coordinators of the Play Hub in Nagydobos (Hungary).

Thanks to a new grant recently awarded by the European Commission, the project will open more Play Hubs until 2021 and will expand to Turkey.