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 Slovakia.
Responding to immediate needs of families and educators
In Slovakia, the two Play Hubs locations were shut down on the 16th of March. However, close cooperation between municipality representatives, TOY for Inclusion partner Wide Open School, and Play Hub staff has continued to provide Roma communities with face masks and toiletries.
Advocacy efforts to raise awareness about the lack of access to clean water and sewage systems are high on the agenda for partners in Slovakia.
In the education field, teachers are finding it difficult to reorganize their work online. Along with difficulties on the part of the teachers, many families do not have access to equipment for distance learning.
Wide Open School is focusing on efforts to improve communication between school staff and Roma parents. To respond to community needs, Play Hub staff are tirelessly assisting families with school tasks and bridging gaps in communication between schools and families.