REF Hosts an Upcoming Roma Toy Library Network Conference in Belgrade

The Roma Education Fund (REF) is organizing the first ever international Toy Libraries Conference for practitioners working in Roma communities, June 6-7 in Belgrade, Serbia. With support from Central European Initiatives (CEI), the Toy Libraries Conference will bring together more than 50 practitioners working in 19 REF-supported Toy Libraries from nine countries, as well as guests from international organizations and governmental institutions.

The goal of the Toy Libraries Conference is to contribute to the building of knowledge and experience in reducing the gap in early childhood education of Roma across Central and Southeastern Europe and to form the network of Toy Libraries working in Roma communities. 

“REF (Roma Education Fund) is very proud to support Toy Libraries and their mission to empower Roma parents and children in the earliest years of development. REF has recognized the significance of investing into projects with alternative approaches, such as this one. The innovation here is that REF and its partners are enabling every child to extend their warm feelings of family within the preschool environment in which learning and socialization are applied through play. In my understanding a child-centered approach is the most adequate for Roma children at this age, as it nurtures spontaneous interaction and builds self-confidence for making the first steps out of their homes and families. I believe that this and similar project interventions have the transformational ingredients which, in the long run, will produce social change. I strongly encourage all partners to continue with their excellent work and bring original and new elements to the program,” according to Nadir Redžepi, Executive Director of the Roma Education Fund.   

Reaching all children in their earliest years is one of the greatest challenges of early childhood systems. In order to reduce the gap in educational outcomes between Roma and non-Roma, the Roma Education Fund supports Toy Libraries which contribute to quality early childhood development and care. Last year REF provided support to more 2,009 children and 1,400 parents from all over Serbia, the Balkans and Central Europe.

While similar Toy Libraries operate in other European countries, the practitioners who work in Roma communities will have for first time the opportunity to meet and exchange professional knowledge and good practices with their peers. The Conference will address a range of critically important issues and themes relating to obstacles and opportunities for Roma inclusion in early childhood education.

The conference will also feature a Toy Exhibition and Toy Corner to emphasize “learning by playing” -- children's development is accelerated by structured play, and toys and games provide learning opportunities that prepare children for enrollment in kindergarten and primary school.