Thursday, June 01, 2017

Chinese in Action visits Toybank!

Toybank hosted Chinese in Action volunteers from on this week! The not-for-profit citizen association based in Mainland China  works for the underpriviledged and unempowered in their country, with it’s volunteers ranging from engineers in their young 30s to educators in their late 60s.

As we shared Toybank’s vision and how far we’ve come since we started 13 years ago, we were taken by their moto of spreading ‘life skills’ through every volunteer they have. They shared that their association is built by, and for, seekers of a ‘transformed’ and empathetic humankind in their country, which they bring about through training sessions and volunteer action events that drive change through action by the members of that community- because they can, and they should.

We were happy to share the experience of a play session at one of our centres in Reay Road with our visitors, where they witnessed the Power of Play on a class of sixty young and vibrant kids. Among the games we engaged the children and our volunteers in was a nail-biting round of skip-rope, where one of the Chinese in Action volunteers set a steep goal of 100 jumps, following our kids with 80 and 50 skips a piece! The kids at our centre saw a healthy opportunity to raise their bars; setting realisitic-yet-challenging goals and enjoying healthy competition was a big take-away from our play session. Creating an honest  space in our minds to cheer on friends whole-heartedly as they attempt to take on something big is one apple we adults could take a bite out of ourselves!

Also part of the play session was a fun round of puzzle and memory games, and exercising  controlling over our volumes to practise listening to someone intently when we’re being spoken to. Our Chinese in Action friends engaged with our kids at every opportunity despite an evident language barrier, which amounted to no disconnect in the packed room. If anything, that’s a testiment to the universal language of Play and it’s power to bring people together!

We hope our friends at Chinese in Action take with them a big bag of memories and hold their experience of the Power of Play with them for a long, long time to come. 

Toy Distribution at Malwani- Less is More!

Ask a little child who his best friend is and he will give you a name. Ask him to call that friend and he will point out to his favourite toy or soft toy that he has very proudly named. This is nothing but the purest form of innocence.
Being able to experience this is nothing but a blessing in disguise.

Toybank hosted a Distribution Event at YUVA, Ambujawadi Malwani- Malad. Distribution sessions are fun-filled sessions which involve giving away toys to children that are theirs for keeps!

The kids started trickling in, each with an energy that got everyone else so excited. Right from little crawlers to children who were aged between 3- 5 were present. Our first mission was to try and contain these little curious fireballs at one place. This was a task in its own. Help poured in from the Morgan Stanley Volunteers and others.

The Distribution event began with a creative play session where different volunteers were assigned different kid groups. Imitating hand gestures, facial expressions and establishing links between creative play and language was showcased beautifully.
Soon the energy levels were soaring to the roof and beyond!
The toddlers then engaged in pretend play. Frog jumps, On-the- spot dance movements to nursery rhymes, were among their favourites.

“Children close their ears to advice, but open their minds to example” expressed one of the kid’s parents. She is ever grateful to Toybank for all their efforts towards enriching her child’s life experiences.

Post the energetic play sessions that were forcefully put on hold, the distribution took place.
With glitter in their eyes and the biggest smiles on their face the little one’s settled down for they knew very well that there was something for each of them.

As each child was called out and given their toy of happiness each one jumped with joy impatiently wanting to head back home to open up their toy and name a new friend!
And I cannot wait to go back to know more about their “new friends”.
Sometimes the little things take up the most room in your heart. These are one of those experiences. Little. Fulfilling. Everlasting. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Toy Distribution with Swabalamban NGO, Delhi

Our Toybank Delhi Chapter had a wonderful Toy distribution in the month of May. The students from The Shriram Millennium School (TSMS) in Noida donated toys through a toy collection drive earlier in December 2016, which was followed by a workshop in February. At the Power of Play workshop, the 7th grade children of TSMS were involved in the sorting and wrapping of the games and toys.

On the 6th of May, we held the distribution event in collaboration with our NGO partner, Swabalamban. Swabalamban is a NGO run by Jyotsna Aneja and works with children and women from marginalized communities. They work with children of Municipal Corporation Schools in Delhi or private schools to help them cope with the syllabus after school. They also work with women through their various women empowerment programs.

The fun toy distribution event was held for children from all age groups, and lasted for 2 hours on a sweltering hot day. The heat didn’t prevent our extremely enthusiastic volunteers from being a part of the event. Two new Toybank volunteers from Johnson Controls Pvt Ltd- Anil Kumar and Jitin Tewari, our regular Delhi toy donor- Swati and her daughters and Swetha Dua from the Toybank team, were all present to share in the joy at the event.

Jitin Tewari shares his experience saying, “This was something new to me. I was immensely happy to see the joy in the kids eyes when we were distributing the toys. Toybank is doing a great work and such efforts should be promoted with high enthusiasm by all.”
Anil Kumar also expressed his thoughts saying, "Really felt awesome after spending a little time with those kids, will definitely want to see this kind of activity in the future, although I did not have the experience and talent which you are having for interaction with kids, but will still try and learn this in the future. You guys are doing a great job and thanks for making me a part of this".


Friday, April 21, 2017

Cycle Story at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2017

The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is a community festival in Mumbai, held within the Kala Ghoda Art District. The festival celebrates music, dance, literature, food, street stalls, cinema, workshops, visual arts, urban design and architecture. The theme for the 2017 Kala Ghoda festival was ‘Speed of Light’, and ran from the 4th to the 12th of February.

The 'Cycle Story' installation at the festival
Toybank had the opportunity to have an installation at this year’s festival. The students of Rachana Sansad College of Interior Design (Mumbai) created an installation for Toybank- The ‘Cycle Story’- an installation 
 representative of childhood going by at the speed of light. The team comprised of Anushka Jariwala, Tithi Mange, Krishika Gandhi, Anubhav Khadka, Sunny Mistry and led by Pratik Somaiya. Each one of them put in meticulous efforts to create the eye-catching installation. 

Dhaval Roy, content editor at Toybank beautifully described the installation, “Wheels of life keep turning, no matter how hard we wish against it. Especially for children, it’s no less than a hyperdrive that propels them to adulthood. For a phase already moving at supersonic speed, adding lessons to play makes playtime hurried and childhood move faster. The installation is depictive of setting children free from cyclical activities in lieu of play, letting them measure the vastness of the skies. Happy as a lark, high as a kite.”

Festival attendees writing down their cycle story
The ‘Cycle Story’ attracted a large number of people, inquisitive to understand what it symbolized. Toybank also had solid support from volunteers to represent us at the festival. Dividing themselves into time slots, the volunteers were present to talk about the installation, answer queries, spread awareness about our work and encourage people to donate toys and volunteer with us. Volunteers engaged with the spectators at the festival and asked them to pen down their favourite childhood memory.

In all, the festival was a great platform for Toybank to spread awareness on the importance and value of play and eventually bring back memories of their childhood.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Play2Smile- Toybank in Hospitals and Palliative Care Centres

As an organization that promotes the Right to Play for every child, Toybank firmly believes that collaboration is the key to creating the maximum impact for the children we work with. In the month of February 2016, Toybank launched a new project- Play2Smile. The project is modelled on collaborating with hospitals and palliative care centres to set up Toybank game libraries. The intention of this new project is to provide the power of play to children who are undergoing treatment at these hospitals.

Toybank at Romila Palliative Care Centre
In the month of February 2017, Toybank opened a game library at the Romila Palliative Centre (an organization under SNEHA NGO). The centre, located in Mumbai, aims to address the cares of patients with life limiting and debilitating conditions, primarily those with cancer. The essence of palliative care is to improve the quality of life of patients, not focusing on “the days they have to live, but rather on how they live those days’, comfortably and without pain and to help the care givers and families face, with knowledge and confidence, the problems associated with a life -threatening illness. The Toybank library toys and games are used by the children who visit this centre.

Games at the SRCC Hospital
In March 2017, we set-up another library in collaboration with SRCC Hospital in Mahalaxmi, Mumbai. This children’s specialty hospital provides pediatric medical experience with world class facilities to ensure affordable, quality medical care for infants, children and adolescents. Toybank had the opportunity to partner with the centre and provide the access to games and toys to all the child patients of the hospital. By setting up the library, we aim to help in creating a happy environment where children can immerse in play and enjoy the variety of games and toys stocked at the centre. Through play therapy, we aim to help the children towards better trauma resolution, social integration, growth and development and emotional modulation.

As we collaborate with more hospitals across Mumbai, we aim to make the lives of the children happier, provide them positive experiences and help them in feeling less anxious.

Teaching kids skill, stamina and speed through Ultimate Frisbee

What started off as a brief interaction with Craig at a Toybank board game session, has now been escalated to a full-fledged sports program at Toybank, with Craig volunteering to take complete leadership of this initiative.

Craig Fonseca captains the Storm Chaser Dos, a Mumbai based team that actively plays Ultimate Frisbee or Ultimate, in short. Practicing every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at Juhu beach in Mumbai, Craig has now mastered the sport.

Every Friday, Craig has an Ultimate session with the children of Maulana Abdul Kalam School in Dharavi. With the assistance of Toybank field officers, he teaches the children this fast-paced game, which demands throwing skills, stamina and speed.

On asking Craig to share his experience, here’s what he had to say, “It’s been real fun introducing Ultimate Frisbee to the kids at the Maulana Abul Kalam School in Dharavi.
Right from the first session, the kids were hooked and picked up the skills needed to play the game really quickly. As we conducted more sessions, it was great and fulfilling to see some kids assume leadership roles and help in teaching their friends how to throw the Frisbee.
With Ultimate Frisbee, being a mixed gender sport, it was amazing to see the boys and girls mixing up, coordinating and working as a team a lot more as the sessions went on.

I’m truly grateful to Toybank and the team for the opportunity and support for the sessions.”

It’s volunteers like Craig that are truly inspirational and help Toybank deepen our work with the children. We’re grateful to have such a committed volunteer to spearhead this program for us and show us the true power of volunteering.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Niraj Mathur and Karishma Rohra are two inspiring Toybank volunteers whose work we are very proud to share with you. Niraj and Karishma took complete ownership of our YMCA centre in Bandra, stepping forward with the idea of conducting independent play sessions. For three whole sessions in December, the both of them engaged with the pre-primary children and conducted activities with them. In addition to this, they actively volunteered at our Andheri and Tardeo centres.
Niraj was more than happy to share his experience with us saying, “We are both currently pursuing a profession in chartered accounting. Firstly, we are glad to be associated with Toybank as it focuses on children and blends play with learning. We both love playing and spending quality time with the small children. While playing with children, not only do we teach them but also learn a lot in return, and the best part is that we become children again!”
They organized play sessions which included activities like role play, various ice-breakers and reciting poems. This was followed by playing the board games where they engaged with all the kids and taught them new games or games which the kids failed to understand. Toybank field officers would assist Niraj and Karishma on the activities to be taken up with the children. They also learnt how organize the children into groups while playing, along with understanding what games are to be played with them.
“Volunteering at Toybank brings us immense joy as playing with children makes one forget all the worries and makes one see the world like a child again, ie, with enthusiasm and with hope! We wish more and more people be a part of Toybank and touch the life of some children in order to make it better”, says Niraj.
Toybank is thankful to have amazing volunteers like Niraj and Karishma as it helps us to really deepen our impact on the children and enable us to reach out to more of them.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Toybank turns 12!

12 years of Toybank’s existence called for a big celebration. On the 19th of November 2016, Toybank shared this joyous occasion with 650 underprivileged children through a toy distribution event.
At 8 am, 36 volunteers and 11 Toybank team members gathered at Shree Ganesh Vidya School, Dharavi, for a volunteer brief. Shweta of Toybank ran through the do’s and don’ts, providing volunteers useful tips for the event. Following that, the kids started trickling in, each with an energy that got everyone else so excited. The children were assembled in seven different rooms depending on their age group, ranging from 3-15 years.

Zaosh Elavia, wonderful Toybank volunteer,shares his experience with us.
"An unusually early morning at Dharavi began with a little confusion as we volunteers ended up at the wrong school but eventually found our way to the Ambedkar School where the event was.  We were sat down in one of their classrooms and immediately, fond memories of school days came flooding back. The low benches (too small for me now I guess), the messy blackboard and those colorful posters all over the walls made me feel like a school kid again.

Once the Toybank staff arrived, things got a little serious.  We were given a drill on the activities to undertake, time limits and the entire plan of the play session.  It felt like school all over again with teachers handing out strict instructions on how to play!! Hmm, had I signed myself up for fun or some serious work on a Saturday morning when I could be nicely wrapped up in my warm blanket?? However, Shweta's assurance that we were all here to have fun and be kids again made my inner rebel feel at home. 

We were then divided into groups of 5-6 volunteers per class and told to head to our respective classrooms.  I initially headed into classroom number 7 where kids from the 3rd and 4th grade began arriving in large numbers.  Immediately, our energy levels went up and our excitement to show these kids a fun time helped us overcome our initial hesitations.  We began by asking the kids to say their names out as loud as possible and then started the first activity i.e. pin the tail on the elephant (blindfolded).  Immediately, the entire class got involved in guiding the kid who agreed to pin the tail and the ensuing chaos was amazing.  The volunteers were egging on the kids to give their best shot and guide their class mates towards the goal.  Eventually, we had to ask that only one kid guide the blindfolded participant to ensure the task could be completed.  It was great fun for us volunteers as we immediately slipped back to our childhoods and started teasing/distracting the participants while they tried to complete the activity.  This spirit of fun and revelry continued through all our activities as we then made the kids play the Idli, Wada, Dosa game as well as the other games created for the event (including the singing game, name your interests, etc).  It was such a joy to interact with the kids and their energy and enthusiasm rubbed off on all the volunteers as we continued to interact with them.

I, for one, felt 10 years younger and 10 times more energetic during these activities and was immediately reminded that we are all so restrained and constrained as adults that we sometimes just forget to be kids again and have fun doing what we do.  We become serious, boorish, and even practical.  It was such a thrill to be in a classroom with these energetic, enthusiastic young kids who were absolutely having a ball giggling and screaming and laughing their way through all the activities that I immediately realized what a wonderful way it was to spend a Saturday morning!
We ended the program by distributing toys to all the kids in each classroom. The happiness on their faces when they realised they were getting a gift to keep was priceless.  I don't even remember how the 90 minutes passed!
Post the distribution session, we shared our experience. Most of the volunteers present felt that they were converted to kids. We were then given some final views on the work Toybank does and the kind of support it receives from volunteers like us. It honestly felt great to be appreciated for having fun, when was the last time that ever happened??A fun group photo-session later, we left taking back some lovely memories and a new-found energy for the weekend ahead.
The event was extremely well organized and the energy of the Toybank team of 12 (felt more like 120 people) rubbed off on all of us and ensured we gave our 200%!  I could not have asked for a better way to spend a Saturday morning and cannot wait till the next event happens. The thought of spending time in the classroom with kids full of energy makes me thrilled.I looking forward to unleashing my inner child again!"

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Toybank Fiesta 2016

To celebrate the spirit of the Joy of Giving Week, Toybank held its annual fundraiser- The Toybank Fiesta 2016. The event was hosted at Abaca Indo-Italian Furniture store over the 7th and 8thof October 2016.  The two-day festival was due to the efforts and commitment of Toybank supports- volunteers, trustees, sponsors and individuals- all who firmly stand by Toybank’s cause.
Special at this year’s fundraiser was the merchandise, exclusively curated for Toybank. The live pop-up bazaar offered an interesting range of products like toy boxes and caddies, Toybank calendars and mugs, artist Devaki Singhs work printed on sling bags, jewelry boxes, posters and greeting cards, stationery products like note books, cards and gifting paper as well as planters and cookies. 
The event schedule featured live music, meaningful discussions and a brief into the world of Toybank and what we believe in. Both the days were kick started with live music performances by students from NSS Hillspring School and Aditya Birla World Academy. Trustee, VivekAsrani, and Founder, Shweta Chari, delivered the keynote on both days, emphasizing the reason Toybank exists and our journey to achieve our goal.

The panel discussion on the
first day delved into the seriousness of play and its importance in childhood. Each one of our panelists provided wonderful insights and shared their personal experiences on the power of play. Panelists VirenRasquinha, Nalini Pinto, PreetiJhangiani, Harish Iyer and Moderator Gopika Kapoor, kept the audience engaged and brought out a special energy at the event. Neeraj Arya’s Kabir CafĂ© ended the night on a great note with their performance of Indian Poet, Kabirs, verses. Each of their selected songs resonated with Toybanks work and reflected the values our organization stands by.
The Toybank coffee table book, featuring select prize-winning pictures, was launched on the second day. Actor and Director, ParvinDabas, launched the book and spoke about his association with Toybank. The winners of ‘Click for Toybank’, our annual photography contest, were acknowledged and given prizes for their wonderful images based on the theme ‘children at play’. Luke Kenny and Band rocked the rest of the evening and saw a special performance by Actress and Model, Sarah-Jane Dias.

This event would not have been possible without the meticulous planning and support gained from Toybankers; whose efforts culminated into the success of the fundraiser. Going forward, we are positive that the support garnered will only keep us encouraged to do more. Driven by a mission and vision - to create a world where all children are empowered through healthy play- we will continue to build strong children through games, toys and play.