The Romani Early Years Network (REYN) was launched at a special event, during the international ECD conference, organized jointly by the International Step by Step Association (ISSA) and Diversity in Early Childhood Education and Training (DECET) in Opatija, Croatia this autumn. The launch took place on the evening of October 15, 2012, following a pre-launch Roma Early Childhood Development Workshop on October 14 that was attended by some 50 prospective members of the new Network (see photos and videos from the event on Facebook). The Workshop was a unique opportunity for Roma and non-Roma Early Childhood Development (ECD) professionals and paraprofessionals from close to 20 countries to come together and share their perspectives, experiences and aspirations for the future, in their work with Romani communities in countries of Central and Eastern Europe, South Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States.
REYN is a joint partnership of ISSA and the Roma ‘Kopaçi’ Initiatives at the Open Society Foundations (OSF) Early Childhood Programme. The aim of this Network is to particularly empower Romani ECD professionals and paraprofessionals working with Romani communities, offering them opportunities for professional development, training, study visits and international networking across the ECD sector. The Network is open to all those working with Romani communities in early childhood development and early years provision, Romani and non-Romani alike, and is intended to nurture positive experience and shared understanding amongst practitioners in the field.
REYN will address the issues that have been identified during research (the Roma Early Childhood Inclusion studies and reports), pinpointing a scarcity of Romani ECD professionals, pedagogues and paraprofessionals, a lack of adequate and culturally sensitive resources for those working in this area and few mechanisms for professional development opportunities to support those working in early years settings with Romani families and their children. REYN aims to begin to address these gaps, by nurturing a professional network that will promote ‘best practice’ amongst those ECD practitioners that are engaged with Romani communities and families. REYN will develop trainings and professional development courses (through an online learning community), offering members the chance to share their experiences of successful (and not-so-successful) initiatives with other practitioners, through interactive blogging, webinars, social media groups and conferences, as well as promoting the exchange of knowledge and understanding of Romani communities and cultures through study visits and professional working exchanges. REYN will particularly focus on promoting growth in the number of Romani ECD professionals and paraprofessionals in the field as practitioners, managers, policy-makers and decision-makers, in line with the principle of “nothing about us, without us.”
Interested professionals and paraprofessionals working in services aimed at young Romani children (birth to 8 years) and their families in Central and Eastern Europe, South Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States and beyond are invited to join the network and take part in its activities. The plans for activities for the 2013 calendar will be announced early next year. In the meantime, those who are interested in participating in REYN as active members are encouraged to join the following virtual platforms – each having different communication functions:
- The ISSA Online Community www.issa.nl/oc where relevant ECD news is posted regularly on the ‘Home’ page, where resources can be accessed through an online Library, and where there are also ‘Special Interest Groups’, including a REYN Group to serve the members. This group will be used for professional discussions on themes of common interest and for announcements related to REYN’s activities. Members of REYN are encouraged to update their Profile with information about their professional interests, and to engage in discussions in the REYN group and other groups.
- The REYN Blog reyn.blog.issa.nl is a place where members of the Network can share their ideas, experiences, reflections and insights from their work to give every Romani child a good start in life from the earliest age. Several REYN members have already posted entries!
- The REYN Facebook Group www.facebook.com/groups/Romani.Early.Years.Network/ is an open group that can be used for informal communication among REYN members. Check out the photos and video clips that are already posted there from the REYN Launch!