TOY For Inclusion Play Hubs Respond to COVID-19: Croatia

In March 2020, when COVID19 began to sweep across Europe, services provided to children, families and communities were heavily impacted. Physical distancing has exacerbated many issues present in communities across the globe, from the lack of access to technology for many families to violence within homes.

The measures that were taken across Europe, and elsewhere, are impacting all aspects of life. TOY for Inclusion Play Hubs are no exception, but their quick mobilization and innovative practices have meant that staff members are still reaching out and engaging with the community even without the physical space the Play Hubs normally are housed in.

TOY for Inclusion Play Hubs, which operate in 8 countries to provide inclusive spaces for young children and their families, have continued to support them through flexible solutions. The Local Action Teams tasked with operating the 15 Play Hubs under this project have sprung into action to adjust activities to address community challenges, often ways formal services haven’t been able to. The work of these teams has continued and, in many cases, intensified.
 Due to their unique and well-established position within communities, they are a trusted resource and support system for families that are facing any number of challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic shines a light on the essential elements of the TOY for Inclusion project – intersectoral work as a way to address complex issues, innovative and flexible solutions tailored to communities and the development of inclusive and easy to reach services.

Each country has developed a tailored response under extremely challenging circumstances. In the coming weeks, TOY partners will share insights into their response efforts. Here, we share the response from Croatia.

Stepping up and speaking out amidst challenges

In Croatia, Local Action Team coordinators began addressing the needs of children and their families by developing short videos clips to share activities caregivers can do with their children at home.  It is a way to stay in contact with children and families.  There is a special emphasis on maintaining close contact with the most vulnerable families.

In the next period, both Croatian Play Hubs plan to open again. Materials for the encouragement of pre-mathematic and pre-reading skills will be provided to the preschool children who have not been able to access a full preschool program this year. Additionally, an online gathering of families will take place soon.

TOY for Inclusion partner, Open Academy Step by Step, shared a letter of concern to national policymakers, urging support the Roma communities in this challenging period. The letter stressed the need for clean water in Roma communities as well as efforts to distribute accurate information regarding COVID-19.