TOY for Inclusion Play Hubs respond to COVID-19: Italy

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 Italy.

Italy – Messages of hope and solidarity

“Casa di Toy” in Sicily continues to support children by sharing activities they can do with parents and using material easily available at home. In Rome, the Play Hub coordinator and assistant keep in touch with children and young people through a WhatsApp group. Additionally, a phone line has been created specifically for young children to call. Here stories are shared in Italian and Romani language.

Children and young people who attended the Play Hub in Mazara del Vallo and Rome have been invited to send the photos of their colorful drawings with the message of hope to help inspire and connect the community. A “long-distance film forum” has also been created by Play Hub coordinators, to allow young people to screen movies at home and attend a video call afterwards for discussion.

More practical needs are also being met, as Play Hub staff bring groceries to the older people in the community who cannot go out and support families with homework assistance.

There are grave concerns about the situation of those living in the institutional Roma settlements in Rome.  TOY for Inclusion partner Association 21 luglio investigated further to better understand the current situation.  Their findings can be found here, along with an appeal to the Mayor and the Prefect of Rome to map the conditions within settlements and take measures to distribute basic necessities, ensure sanitary conditions and provide access to drinking water.