On June 19, 2019, REF participated in the annual International Step by Step Association (ISSA) Conference in Leiden, Netherlands. The ISSA Conference brings together the world’s leading experts in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) services.
REF participated in the conference through showcasing one of its best practises- Toy Libraries, in a unique and interactive manner in addition to co-hosting a panel on EU Level ECEC advocacy. REF set up a life size Toy Library installation fully equipped with toys and an expert Toy Librarian. Throughout the day, participants were welcomed to enter into the Toy Library and experience a play session. Play is one of the most efficient way that children learn. Access to quality educational toys support the early stimulation of children and help develop important skills for healthy physical and cognitive development.
The Roma Education Fund supports approximately 56 Toy Libraries in over 40 Roma communities across 10 countries. REF has developed an early childhood education model based on its project and field experiences with the aims of improving early childhood education outcomes and school readiness of disadvantaged Roma children under age six. The Toy Library Network aims to spread the message about the importance of early childhood education for Roma children by offering ongoing learning and professional support to its members.
In addition to the Toy Library installation, REF in partnership with EuroChild, Roma Early Years Network (REYN), and Open Society Foundations London Office held a panel discussion on the value of EU Level ECEC advocacy. The conference session focused on presenting activities from each organization and evaluating its role in advocating at the EU level for policies impacting Roma and other vulnerable groups. To capture the expertise and knowledge from conference participants, the session implemented a workshop design based on questions that addressed recent research, the role of civil society and community members in EU level advocacy, opportunities and challenges in EU level advocacy and innovative approaches moving forward.