By mid-June 2022, more than 13 million people have fled their homes since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. More than five million have left Ukraine for neighbouring countries, while eight million people are thought to be displaced inside Ukraine itself.
Children make up half of all refugees from the war in Ukraine, and have arrived mostly in Poland, Romania, Moldova, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Some children who have fled Ukraine are still able to access their Ukrainian school curriculum online. For others, and especially for young children and those from vulnerable groups (Roma, children with disabilities, children in institutions, unaccompanied minors) collective efforts must be made to make sure that their education continues. In addition to the opportunity to keep learning, it is fundamental that children access psychosocial support and non formal education activities that give them stability, protection and a sense of belonging in a time of uncertainty.
The TOY for Inclusion Play Hubs are community-based inclusive non formal educational spaces for children and families. They especially make sure to include and engage young children (0-10 years old) from vulnerable, minority groups and growing up in difficult circumstances.
With the support of UNICEF, the new Play Hubs will offer a safe and welcoming space for refugee children and families to:
- socialise and make new friends,
- learn the local language,
- express emotions, and process traumatic experiences,
- get to know their new community,
- be introduced to education and other services,
- get specialised support in different areas through direct referral: education, health, housing, employment, etc.
- 10 Play Hubs were established in Slovakia. These locations were chosen for the number of Ukranian refugees they are hosting. Three Play Hubs are set in primary schools, while three others are in refugee camps.
- 50 Play Hub staff (Slovak and Ukrainian) will be trained on how to establish and run a Play Hub and how to promote the integration of refugee children and families through non formal ECEC. ICDI will offer training on: the pillars of the TOY for Inclusion Approach, Intergenerational Learning, Communication and cooperation with families, Creating a sense of belonging for children and families, The importance of routines in early childhood, Reflective evaluation of practice for Play Hubs.
- A Toolkit on inclusive play-based activities that promote integration and healing from trauma for young refugee children will be developed by ICDI and used by Play Hub staff.
- Increased access of refugee children (0-12) to playful learning in inclusive and high quality non-formal ECEC settings
- Improved transition of refugee children to schools and kindergarten
- Improved parental skills of refugee parents in relation to playful learning and responsive parenting
- Increased trust between families of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds (refugee and local)
- Increased capacity of Play Hub staff to work with refugee children and families and to support their inclusion.
ICDI developed the Handbook ‘Play for Inclusion’ on inclusive play-based activities that promote integration and healing from trauma for young refugee children. The handbook is intended for civil society organisations, educators, community development workers, mediators, ECEC and preschool practitioners, school teachers, teaching assistants, play workers and volunteers.
- Part One through Three of the Handbook are intended for civil society organisations, trainers, mentors and ECD practitioners. These sections provide important background theory on the effects of war, displacement and trauma on child development and well-being, the concept of community-based child-friendly spaces – Play Hubs, as well as an overview of non-formal ECD services in emergencies.
- Part Four presents the benefits of intergenerational learning for young and old, with particular attention to social inclusion.
- Part Five provides an easy-to-use selection of simple activities that can be organised in Play Hubs and other non-formal and informal education settings involving children, parents and other family members.