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TOY for Inclusion: Roma and non-Roma children now play together

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“I am happy that my children don’t have to stay in the street”, a Roma mother says.

In Ghent (Belgium), TOY for Inclusion has an outreach program that involves Roma families and children with activities around the city. Thanks to their work, practitioners have managed to gain the trust of families, and Roma and non-Roma children now play together.

‘I am happy that my children can come here. That they have a place where to play. I am happy that they don’t have to stay in the street the whole time’, says a Roma mother from Ghent. She prefers to remain anonymous to protect her privacy.

TOY for Inclusion partner, the Centre for Innovation in the Early Years (VBJK) works with VZW Jong and VZW Rode Lotus in areas with a high concentration of Roma families. VZW Jong and VZW Rode Lotus are two civil society organizations with the mission to strengthen community-based services at the local level.

A practitioner says

“Children are children and parents are parents. Parents just want the same things for their children all around the world. They want them to feel good. It is important to focus on this ‘simple’ concept when organizing activities for children. And we should know that working with children means also involving families and take into account their wellbeing”, says Gwen Pannecoucke, practitioner at VZW Jong.

In Ghent, instead of having one fixed location where to play, TOY for Inclusion is adopting an outreach program in order to involve Roma families around the city. Children are offered different activities: they cook together, they swim, they eat and play together, all things that wouldn’t happen without the specific attention towards inclusion that TOY for Inclusion brought.

Integration works!

Practitioners report to be positively surprised by the growing number of friendships they saw developing among children, especially children with different origins: at the beginning, children were playing much in separated ‘ethnic’ groups. Through the development of TOY for Inclusion, they have been playing all together and made new friends.

 

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