TOY For Inclusion Conversations: Play Hub Coordinator From the Netherlands

As the COVID-19 pandemic lingers and activities continue to occur in online spaces, TOY for Inclusion is taking advantage of this movement online to showcase some of the most influential and crucial voices of the TOY for Inclusion project.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve shared updates on the work of partners involved in the project. We’ve also highlighted insights from municipalities about the TOY for Inclusion Play Hubs’ unparalleled importance in communities.

Now, we’re handing the microphone to those who are working in the Play Hubs. Listen to hear what Esther, a Local Action Team (LAT) Coordinator in the Netherlands, wants you to know about her work.

Interview with Esther Postma

Listen to the audio in Dutch or read the transcripts in English below.

Role in TOY for Inclusion: 
Local Action Team Coordinator

the Netherlands

Job title: 
Family Coach

Years as LAT Coordinator: 
1 year

Q: What do you think makes the TOY for Inclusion approach unique or different from other initiatives for young children and their families?

A: First, let me say we have an amazing team. But what makes the difference is that we are working with Roma “bridge figures” (individuals who help us connect with the community).

Kali and Antonio (“bridge figures”) generally know how to win the Roma community’s trust. They help us introduce the various activities that we offer in our Play Hub in an accessible way. The activities are mainly aimed at developing self-confidence, identity, or talents. We also notice that Roma in the community enjoy coming to the TOY Play Hub and that they are enthusiastic about the range of different activities that we offer. We also notice that the mutual trust between the authorities and service providers and the Roma community is improving. Everyone can be themselves and we learn from each other.

Q: We know that one of the most important features of the TOY for Inclusion approach is the flexibility, can you explain how your Play Hub adapted during the pandemic?

A: It was indeed a difficult time. We had just started with our Play Hub and then we had to close down for three months. We had regular contact digitally with our team. We have used this period to expand and strengthen our team and discuss our goals. Furthermore, Kali and her children put together small packages with toys, books, and candy and brought these to about 50 children at their homes. The families were very enthusiastic, and we received happy reactions.

Q: Can you tell us about one reaction, feedback or comment from a family or child attending your Play Hub that had an impact on you personally, or that ‘touched your heart’? 

A: Certainly. One child counted on his fingers when he could come back to the TOY Play Hub. Many children are impressed that the TOY Play Hub and the activities are a free service, as they are used to the fact that they or their parents usually pay for activities or clubs. Mothers say: “Finally, I can spend some time on myself,” or, “I have never thought about questions who I am, what I want or what I want to achieve in life.” These were some of the comments from mothers during a workshop we held.

Q: What are two things you want policy makers to know about TOY for Inclusion?

A: The target group is very difficult to reach. That makes the bridge figures the key to the success of our TOY Play Hub. In addition, we have the freedom to modify our work as we see fit. I think this is positive because we are able to adapt the project and services to the needs of children and parents that we are working with.

I want to highlight it takes a few months before the project can be set up in the right way for a community. It would have been convenient if we had more clarity in advance about possible follow-up financing. Seeking close cooperation with the local municipality in advance may offer a solution, both in terms of follow-up financing options and working on joint objectives.

Q: Can you share in a few words what makes you proud to be a Local Action Team coordinator/Play Hub Assistant? 

A: It allows me to set up something nice and positive for people in the community that are often shown in a negative light. It enables me to work with a very nice team. 

We also have the freedom to design our own project. We can adapt it to the needs of children and families. Each week I see happy children and parents that learned something new. And each week is a challenge to make the right choices and find partners to make it a success. We achieve small but beautiful results, and I am very proud of that.

Thank you, Esther Postma, for sharing your experiences with the TOY Play Hub in Enschede. Esther was interviewed by Iara de Witte.