TOY for Inclusion is a good practice, town of Sisak says

The municipality of Sisak (Croatia) has produced a booklet to promote the project.

The Croatian town of Sisak is proud of the local TOY for Inclusion Play Hub. The initiative has been recognized as a good practice that fosters the development of children and their social inclusion.

Download the booklet in Croatian.

The booklet invites adults and children to join the Play Hub activities for playing, attending workshops or volunteering.

The Play Hub

Launched in the primary school of Braća Bobetko in the town of Sisak on January 24, 2018, the Play Hub was opened by the mayor Kristina Baniček and by Klara Perković, mayor of the children’s city council.

An estimated 2.165 Roma people out of a total population of 61.497 live in the town. Many children of the Roma settlements in the surroundings attend the school of Braća Bobetko.

The Play Hub opens on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 PM to 7 PM.

The opening is made possible thanks to the REYN National Coordinator in Croatia Korak Po Korak.

REYN Slovenia helps little Valentina hear again

- News

Thanks to the help of the Local Action Team established by REYN Slovenia, Valentina, 5 years old, has received hearing aid.

The little Valentina, was often sitting in the corner. She did not attend pre-school although she regularly went to the Centre for School and Outdoor Education activities organized in the Roma settlement.

Valentina, so we will call her to protect her privacy, was always enthusiastic to go to the workshops but did not actively participate in signing or dancing. With time, the professionals who worked with her, realized that she had difficulties with hearing.

She was not being brought to the doctor despite the advices of the Local Action Team (LAT). The LAT, is formed by professionals from preschools and schools, Roma representatives, health and social workers of the Social and Health Care Centre, which operates in the Roma settlement. They meet regularly, and with the local municipality of Grosuplje plan activities towards the inclusion of Roma.

Valentina’s family lived in difficult economic conditions. They do not have water and electricity at home. Also, they were off the radar of the public health authorities and they couldn’t afford private medical treatment.

With the involvement of the LAT, a local practitioner built a strong and trustful relationship with the family. This led to the arrangement of a doctor’s appointment where her hearing problems were diagnosed. Her parents also enrolled Valentina to preschool.

As the communication between the parents and the preschool was on a good level, they could follow the girl’s progress after she received her medical treatment. The Social and Health Care Centre monitored her development too.

Thanks to the hearing aid Valentina is now more responsive, self-confident and can actively follow the activities inside and outside the school.

Read more about what REYN Slovenia does here.
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What children say about TOY for Inclusion in Slovakia

- News

The TOY for Inclusion Play Hub in Slovakia keeps receiving appraisals! Recently we reported about Thorbjørn Jagland, the Council of Europe Secretary General and other high level politicians who applauded the project. Today we are happy to share some cheerful quotes that children who attend the Play Hub have told us!

The TOY for Inclusion Play Hub in Spišský Hrhov (Slovakia) is placed in the local kindergarten and school and it’s visited every day by dozens of children.

This is what they say.

“I was amazed to see the colors of the room… We don’t play at home because we don’t have such modern and new toys. My father left us when I was a baby, so my mom takes care of me on her own. Last time before going home, Tatiana [a volunteer], told my mom we could take some toys with us at home. I could not simply believe that! We took a Lego set home and I spent long time constructing it until I fell asleep.” Zuzana, 8 years old.

“We come in and make ourselves comfortable. There is no day without Play Hub, I can’t wait to come again tomorrow!” Sonia, 6 years old.

What parents say

“A unique place for us Roma mothers. I have never seen a place where so many different children play together like in our Play Hub.” Monika, mother of 4 children.

“I have never felt so welcome and respected before. My boys are happy to play with other children of the village and nobody treats them any different. They even have the chance to use books and toys I could not afford. What a perfect place!” Anna Dirdova, Roma mother of six children.

Learn more about the TOY for Inclusion Play Hubs here.

Prejudice against Roma can be overcome, TOY for Inclusion local teams echo

- News

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:

  1. Improved the transition experience of Romani children to schools.
  2. Improved children’s preparedness for formal education.
  3. Increased trust of Roma communities in the local services.
  4. 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.

Find all the project results here.

Investing in early childhood education has long lasting benefits

- News

Photo UNICEF/John McConnico

Investing in early childhood education pays off for children and for society.

According to a study of the American Educational Research Association, participation in high-quality early childhood education increases graduation rates and reduces special education placement and grade retention.

If we consider the economic aspect, financing an extra grade has an impact on public budgets, researchers said. In this context, investing in early childhood education could save public money in the long term.

Read more here.

The letter adventure: Learning to read is fun!

- Blog | Noeleen OHara

boy Aventura worksheetHe is 10 years old and smiling proudly: ‘I can read!’  He has just read his first reading card. The card consists of a short story made up of a few simple sentences. This is enough to give him the experience of reading and the motivation to learn more letters in order to read more. How beautiful to see children developing reading skills, children who thought they would never be able to learn to read at all, especially when they have been part of a class in which most of the others learned to read more easily.

To teach children to read and write in a class with different levels of competency is not easy, especially when most of them have difficulties with concentration for various reasons. In the educational program of the Association Laleaua in Tarnaveni, Romania, Roma children who attend the local primary school get daily remedial lessons after school hours. In 2009 the teachers at Laleaua struggled with the question: ‘How can we help the Roma children who attend our program to learn to read and write in the most efficient and successful way?’ They realized that lessons should be manageable for the children – not too difficult – that a considerable amount of repetition was needed for reinforcement, and that progression through the lessons should be paced for each individual child. A safe environment would be helpful to reduce fear of failure.  Based on these principles, key elements for their proposed way of teaching were:

  • immediate results by enabling children to read simple sentences
  • using stories from the children’s’ own life and environmenttwo boys worksheet
  • individual progress records
  • opportunities for repetition as needed

After starting to write the curriculum and teaching with it, the teachers were motivated to develop it further when they saw how the children were genuinely enjoying reading and writing. As familiar pictures and words from their own environment were used, the children were able to relate to what was taught.  For example, one of the words used is ‘mac’ (Romanian for ‘corn poppy’). A boy who had learned this word, came to the program the following day with a corn poppy in his hand: ‘Look what I found!’

The new curriculum is called Aventura Literelor, ‘The Letter Adventure’. An important guiding principle is: to give children experiences of success in accomplishing a task will lead to competence. Some of the children in the program learned more than the teachers first anticipated and were able to read simple children’s books. There are also some children who make little progress even after years of working with this curriculum. Maybe they will never become fluent readers and writers, but doing the exercises and being part of the class does increase their skills and they will know that it is okay to learn in their own tempo.

Jorine Steen, July 2016.

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Aventura small

Study visit to Romania Bihor County

- Blog | ZoricaTrikic

First day of study visit to Romania – very exciting experience. Inspiring gathering. We have been in Multifunctional Center in Tinca village. Everything goes smoothly with hosts like Ruhama Foundation.

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