In March 2020, when COVID-19 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 Turkey.
Creating online groups to stay connected
The Ministry of National Education stopped all educational activities as of March 16, 2020. The Play Hub of TOY for Inclusion partner, Akromfed, closed immediately in Mersin.
To continue their activities, online groups involving parents were established. Activity plans were created and shared each week via these groups. Plans include videos as well, to make them as user-friendly.as possible. The groups encourage engagement by asking children and parents to share photos of them completing the activities. In order to raise awareness about healthy behaviours, Akromed is providing information on the following topics:
- Healthy nutrition for children
- Hygiene education
- Information about current and verifiable Covid19
In this period, Roma families, and especially those working in seasonal or temporary jobs, have difficulties in satisfying even their most basic physiological needs (water, food, shelter, clothing) and children are experiencing many challenges to access to education. The most pressing include:
- Lack of access to the Internet, television, and computer
- Difficult adaptation to and integration in distance learning
- Inadequate house conditions
- Lack of resources to study/practice (Books, documents, equipment, supplies, etc.)
On 3 April 2020, the government took an additional step in the restrictions and enforced a curfew for all children under 20 years old. Local Action Teams have found ways to additionally support families who benefit from the Play Hubs by:
- putting them in contact with institutions that distribute food packages,
- providing information about the application process for those who need financial support, and
- consulting with families by phone to determine their specific needs.