Date: 18-02-2019

NEWS - Association 21 July: ‘Little by Little, the Girl started making Friends.’

Blessed with the opportunity to speak face to face with so many people from our member organizations at the Annual Council meeting, we took the opportunity to sit down and ask how things are truly going. In the professional atmosphere and on a different scale. Local level in this instance, as we spoke with Francesca Petrucci, who is Project coordinator for the Association 21 July.

Q: ‘Can you tell us how Italy is faring with regards to Early Childhood Development? What issues need to be addressed?’

A:‘Italy is missing the cultural mediator role in educational services. There are many children from different regions and backgrounds and teachers are not supported or sustained in their role. For this reason - to empower skills of Roma people who want to work in educational services - we now offer a training for ten Roma whom are already working or willing to work in such services. The training is dedicated to the psychological aspects of a child’s development and children’s rights, and it readies the trainees to become mediators in classrooms.

We also offer another training in which trainees become familiar with the life circumstances of Roma children and which is intended to give them practical tools to reduce prejudice and discrimination against Roma children.

Q: ‘How bad is it for Roma children to live in Italy today?’

A: ‘For the ones who live in the camps, conditions are poor. We try to bridge communities and facilitate access to schools. We have a transport service that picks up the children and takes them to our services. Our early childhood services are prone to create a smoother transition for Roma children into school. So transport and transitional services are currently the two things we do to improve things, in addition to all the advocacy actions we consistently carry out

Q: ‘Can you share a success story from your services.’

A: ‘Yes, we have a Roma mother of 34, she has four children and is married with a Roma man. She attended many trainings about early childhood development. First, she worked in a center for 3-6 years old. Now she works for the 0-3 services and her presence is of vital importance to other Roma mothers. She makes them feel asserted and helps them to grow trust in our organization. We very much value and need people like her to make next steps in improving the situation for Roma.

For us she is a good example of empowerment and it proves that in the right setting we can help other children achieve a better future.

Q: ‘What is your organization’s biggest achievement?’

A: ‘The TOY for Inclusion Play Hubs* We opened a service in an already existing library in Rome and created a new Play Hub in Sicily. In Sicily we had a little Romani girl with some disabilities who came to attend the service. At first, her family was afraid to take her as other children may run into her when it was crowded, or in general, that they’d make fun of her. Little by little, the girl started to make friends and form relationships with others. Her family then understood the importance for their daughter to attend an educational service and they registered her in the pre-school also.

Q: Earlier, we talked about the European Quality Framework. Would this be something that Italy could benefit from?’

A: It was really interesting and I think we should look deeper into this 5 Step to Quality training. I think it could be of great value to our work. What I like about it, is that it’s not so specific and we would be able to adapt it to our needs.’

Q:  ‘How does your organization benefit from being an ISSA member?’

A: ‘The benefits are that we can learn the good practices of other countries. It’s a very good opportunity for every member to be in touch with one another and see what is happening in other places.’


*The TOY for Inclusion Play Hubs are part of the ECEC PLAY HUBS Project, an initiative aimed at the community as a whole. More information can be found