Spazio Baby Welcomes Roma Families in Rome

Spazio baby – a place for early childhood – is located in Polo Ex Fienile – a former barn turned into a polyfunctional building, located in the suburb of Tor Bella Monaca in Rome. It is open four mornings a week and welcomes children from 0 to 3 years old, accompanied by a family member, usually a mother, who also often participates in other activities and courses organized by Associazione 21 Luglio.

It is important for the mothers from the Roma community to have a place for early childhood where they play and discover new experiences with their children in a nurturing and welcoming context, where they can be supported by educators and by professionals – midwives, pediatricians, and nutritionists – who deal with early childhood and who periodically offer advice to the families. It is also important to share parenting experiences, doubts, and fears with other moms who may have very different cultural backgrounds. We talked to three educators and asked them to share more information about their activities.  

How do families spend their time at Spazio baby?

Marcella: We offer handling and free play activities with educational toys and on sunny days children can play in the garden. Thanks to the mobile play hub that contains games and teaching materials, we can bring a well-equipped playroom to the green spaces of the Polo Ex Fienile. For a few days a week the family members take part in small craft workshops together with their children. Families come from extremely diverse origins. There are both Italian and foreign families. Most of them come from Sub-Saharan and Northwest Africa. There are also families from South America and Eastern Europe. Sometimes some Roma mothers and children come to spend their morning with us as well. Outdoor activities became very essential in this pandemic period. That is why we offer to children and parents games, walks and sensory path in the green space and also in the vegetable garden.

Dzemila: When we are outdoors, we use lots of natural elements in our activities: twigs and leaves, sand, soil, and seeds. We use fruits and vegetables both to eat and to color or to do decoupage. We can see that children have fun doing these activities with their mothers, who also participate with enthusiasm. Besides, we have sown some vegetables, and it was also lots of fun. Recently we started to grow green bean seeds, and we already see the first sprouts.

How is your work team composed?

Dzemila: We work in shifts of three or four educators. We are five in total, and three of us are from Roma origin.

What is your career path?

Marcella: I have a degree in psychology, and for several years I have been working on a project with minors from 0 to 13 years.

Miriana: I am a Roma educator. I have participated in many training sessions on the subject of early childhood organized by Associazione 21 Luglio, with which I have been working for about 10 years.

What does being a Roma educator working on early childhood mean to you?

Miriana: I am a little more comfortable working with children outdoors. For me, it is essential to work and have experience exchange with colleagues, but above all with mothers who have no prejudices to me as a Roma woman. Seeing that mothers, with such different origins, trust us and bring their children to us is a nice compensation compared to some situations of discrimination that I experienced as a young girl. When I was little, the parents of the other children didn’t want them to spend their time with a Roma girl. As an educator, on the other hand, I never had problems with discrimination.

Dzemila: As a Roma who has worked for many years in the social sector, first in a refugee center, then in a foster home, and later with Associazione 21 Luglio, I find that the best thing is when the families we work with come from many different origins and backgrounds. On the contrary, I think doing an activity for mono-ethnic families is a form of racism. I believe that working with those who are different from you leads to a greater open-mindedness. My life experience as a Roma, but above all as a woman, has helped me a lot in my work. Being Roma helped me to avoid labels and prejudices.

Marcella, did you already work with Roma colleagues?

Marcella: No, it is the first time that I have Roma colleagues. I already knew Roma families, but I never worked together with them. Now I am delighted working with them. Maybe it’s a matter of personality… All three colleagues are very pragmatic, they find a solution for anything, they fix broken things, and, if needed, they even climb trees. Moreover, they are predisposed to listening. I see that they talk willingly with parents, giving good advice, perhaps learned in past experiences, when they lived surrounded by so many children.

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TOY for Inclusion phase II kicks off

TOY for inclusion opens Play Hubs to boost inclusion at the local level. Scaling up the results achieved so far and improving inclusion policies on early childhood development are the main objectives of this second phase.

Last year TOY for Inclusion has achieved an unexpected success. Four thousand children in Europe participated in our activities and the project was awarded the Life Long Learning Award 2018 in the category ‘Best Learning Environment’.

This week the project partners met in Rome (Italy) to plan the actions for the next two years. Thanks to new funding, TOY for Inclusion will open one new Play Hub in Croatia, Latvia, Hungary, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia, Italy and will expand to Turkey.

In addition, advocacy will play a key role in this new phase. We aim at advising EU and local policy makers on how non-formal educational activities in early childhood policies can foster inclusion.

Last year, we have developed a Toolkit on how to open Play Hubs and a What Works Guide with recommendations for policy makers. These two documents show to local administrators how informal education can be the gateway to school and preschool for many children at risk of exclusion.

So far, the project has created eight Play Hubs for young children in seven EU countries: one in Belgium, Croatia, Latvia, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia and two in Italy.

The Play Hubs support the early childhood development of Romani, migrant and vulnerable children to foster their integration in school and preschool.

They are inclusive spaces where children and families are encouraged to play and learn: while children are allowed to borrow toys, information about childrearing, health, early learning and development is passed on informally to (grand)parents.

Read more here.

REYN Italy offers training for pedagogical professionals in Rome

- News

Associazione 21 luglio and REYN Italy offer cutting edge training for Early Childhood Pedagogical Professionals in Rome on November 19th-24th, 2018.

Participants will gain the following knowledge and skills:

  • Educational poverty: different aspects and dimension.
  • The legal instruments to tackle educational poverty.
  • Poverty at school: tools for inclusion.
  • The effects of poverty on the development of the child.
  • Building an educational community.

The training is addressed to young Roma living in slums and it includes attending a three-hour conference in the Italian Parliament on International children’s day (November 20th) organized by Associazione 21 Luglio. The conference will tackle the issue of Romani parent-child separation.

Read more about REYN Italy.

Training for pedagogical professionals in Rome, Italy. Register now!

- News

Registrations are open to the training for Early Childhood Pedagogical Professionals organized by Associazione 21 luglio and REYN Italy.

The training will provide participants with theoretical and practical tools to help young children in poverty in formal and informal slums.

Participants will gain the following knowledge and skills:

– Educational poverty: different aspects and dimension
– The legal instruments to tackle educational poverty
– Poverty at school: tools for inclusion
– The effects of poverty on the development of the child
– Building an educational community

The training is addressed to young Roma living in slums and will take place in Rome (Italy) from November 19th to 23rd, 2018 (40 hours in total).

Based on the applications, 10 participants will be selected. The deadline for applications is October 15th, 2018. Find the form here (in Italian).

Read more about REYN Italy.

Associazione 21 luglio and REYN Italy: “15 thousand Romani children in slums are deprived of their rights”

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In Italy, 15 thousand Romani children live in formal and informal slums, Associazione 21 luglio and REYN Italy say.

In Rome, an estimated 4,100 Romani children live in poverty: 1,350 are between zero and six years old, 2,750 are aged seven to 18. These children and young people suffer from social exclusion and stigma. A few have access to health services. For these children life expectancy is ten years below the average, one in five will not enter schooling paths and will have almost no possibilities to go to university.

The lack of proper housing is among the first challenges to school retention. The majority of slums are excluded from public service; they are often located in extreme peripheries and polluted areas. Lack of income, discrimination, cultural deprivation and inadequate housing are factors that can impact enormously on the physical and psychological well being of children. These factors can also cause the so-called “ghetto diseases”: malnutrition, scabies, tuberculosis, anxiety and depression.

Forced evictions of informal settlements frequently happen and constitute traumatic events for children that live in the slums. This has serious consequences on the children’s right to education. In Naples, in the neighborhood of Gianturco, a forced eviction that involved 1,300 Roma in housing emergency (half of them were minors), caused a real diaspora just at the eve of International Roma Day on 8 April 2017.

In Rome, since November 2016 there was an increased 133% in forced evictions.

Read the whole press release on the Associazione 21 luglio website here.

Read more facts and figures on REYN Italy‘s page.