Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Letter from Bhutan!

Toybank went International with it's toy distribution when we sent toys to around 120 children from Changzamtok lower secondary school in Thimphu, Bhutan!

We now have an ongoing association with the schools in Bhutan. Here's what our coordinator from Bhutan - Ashima Sachdeva-Khemka had to say about her experience with the activity:
'I saw a smile on those round and rosy cheeks as she held her first toy in her tiny hands. That is when i decided to do something. This was in Thimphu, Bhutan, the 'Happy Himalayan Kingdom'. Surprisingly most kids around here have to wait till they are five years or more to get their first doll or a ball. It is so because the society does not give any developmental value to toys. The belief amongst the masses is that leaves, twigs and stones are enough for a kid to play with so there is no point in spending money on toys!

The simple idea that struck me that day was, "Why not have a toy library for the 'not-so-well-off' Bhutanese kids?". I knew that it shouldn't be very difficult to find a group of like minded people and get this going in some way. But what I was not sure of, was whether there will be enough people to donate toys, as the middle class in Bhutan is not as vast as in India. Nevertheless, I started talking to some people and organizations. And as expected I was received with a nod of optimism from everyone.
The first person to support my enthusiasm was a Government School Principal in Thimphu, who immediately wanted to set up a toy library for her pre-primary children. She wanted to do it fast but for me the question was where would the toys come from? A toy collection drive in the city would need more people and time. "May be I should ask the Mumbai-based Toybank on how to do it?” So I wrote to the Toybankers in Mumbai and after just one meeting they were willing to share their toy stocks for Bhutan. I only had to arrange for the transport which thanks to my husband's corporate team's frequent flights became relatively easy.

In a matter of three weeks we were able to get the right amount of toys and games for at least 120 children from the school. The school has even involved the parents to volunteer for the play-time set aside for the kids to use this library. 

Thereafter the principal introduced me to her husband, who happened to be the national coordinator of the Early Childhood Development Centers (ECDC), a project of Bhutan Education Ministry and UNICEF. He along with a representative from the UNICEF team were impressed by the quality of toys sent from India and were keen to have a similar toy library for their 12 centers across rural Bhutan serving around 250 children and their families. The Mumbai based Toybank was more than happy to support this initiative. Moreover, the ECDC team wanted to test run a toy collection drive in Thimphu. They tried to collect toys through their own stall in a fair with the help of some young volunteers. However, the collection did not match the quality and quantity expected.

The ECDC toy initiative has continued to carry on with complete support from Toybank. Understanding the difficult geography of rural Bhutan, the distribution of the toys across centers is taking time and I am still awaiting the first piece of news and pictures from the kids there. 

My personal experience though this entire journey of four months has made me believe in the saying "you take one step and there will be a thousand towards you". So while I acted just as a bridge, there were others like the Education secretary, the school principal, the national coordinator of the ECDC and the UNICEF representative, who made the path perfect for the toys to travel and reach the deserving hands.'

Kudos to Ashima from everyone at Toybank for her wonderful efforts in making this happen!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Meet the Toybankers in UK at the Bosom Pals Charity Event

Toybank UK kick-started it's operations in May 2010 with a fantastic event at Queen's Gate Junior School in London.

This event was quickly followed by our association with Bosom Pals Appeal, Southend Hospital Charitable Foundation, Essex.

Here's what Nilam Patel, a Toybanker who's part of our committee in UK had to say about the event:

"On Saturday 5th June, Sunita Suvarna hosted her 4th Charity Dinner dance at Sweyne Park school in Rayleigh, Essex, in aid of Bosom Pals, the charity which supports patients (and families) of those who have been diagnosed with Breast Cancer.

Sunita organized her first Charity Dinner and Dance in September 2004. The idea came to mind after her husband Praful, along with other family members, participated in a charity walk for Bosom Pals. It is at this point that Sunita decided to do something more and with huge amounts of support from her family and her army of well wishers, volunteers and sponsors the event was a huge success raising close to £5,000! There was no looking back. Sunita went onto organise her second function in 2006, then again in 2008 with 2010 marking her 4th and final event.

It is with huge pride to announce that these events have in total raised close to £23,000 so a huge and hearty congratulations to Sunita and her family and friends. 

I am pleased to say that Toybank UK has also extended their support this year, by placing an advertisement in the event brochure which was much appreciated. The brochure, along with representation from the UK committee of Toybank, gave us a great opportunity to raise awareness about the work we do as well as drum up new support! With close to 300 people attending this event we can rest assured that Toybank UK has well and truly landed....!"

Organizer - Sunita Suvarna at the charity event

Saturday, July 10, 2010

May 2010 Updates - We reach out to 260 children from Bangalore & Mumbai!

Toybank partnered with Mr. Sanjay Shinge of the NGO ‘Humanity Foundation for a distribution event on the 2nd of May 2010 at Dadar.

Toybank distributed toys to around 200 kids of the NGO. A team of dedicated Toybank volunteers kept the kids on the go with a range of activities like playing games, singing songs, reciting poems etc. After spending some quality time with the kids the toys were distributed to them. The twinkle in their eyes, the beautiful smile and curiosity on their faces to know if they are getting a cricket bat or a football showed how happy they were to receive the toys.

The kids surely had a gala time and so did we !!

We had a toy distribution event with the summer camp organized by IAR on 16th of May last year. And we did it again this year! We reached out to 60 children participating in a summer camp at Lakshmipura in Tavarakere, Magadi Road, Bangalore Rural.

IAR (Indian Agency for Rehabilitation) India conducts this summer camp every year and they call it - the Tavarakere summer camp project.

Catch all the action here!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Walt Disney's - 'Donate a Toy, Spread some Joy'

Walt Disney's 'Toy Story 3' hit the theaters all over the world last month and Walt Disney India partnered with Toybank and launched a 'Donate a toy, Spread some joy' campaign all over India.

Here are a few Press advertisements of the campaign. We are eagerly waiting to get our hands on the toys collected through this campaign, wrap them and distribute them to many more wonderful kids in India!

Read more about the campaign here.
24th June 2010 in Bombay Times
25th June in Telegraph, Kolkata

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Toybank Delhi off to a flying start!

Although it looked like a jittery start by the time we got all the 13 volunteers to reach our venue for Toybank's 1st distribution event, the event went on to become an awesome start to our activities in Delhi/NCR!

After chatting up with the volunteers for few minutes we kick-started the event at 10 15 AM. The Mobile Creches centre had children from less than a year up till 12 years of age. Some of the infants were busy sleeping in the jholis adjacent to the walls inside the centre. Also a tetanus vaccination camp was happening for the infants at the same time.

Toybank volunteers joined  3 different groups divided on age groups of children and started playing various games to entertain the children. One group kept the children busy dancing, singing and stories using toys as props while the other group was busy playing pakadam-pakadai. Another small group of volunteers were busy pacifying the infants who were crying out loud after the vaccination.

We spent over an hour playing with the children and then started with distribution of toys and Parle-G biscuits. We also gave few educational toys, puzzles (fun with Maths, parts of human body, etc), toddler toys to the centre's toy library.

We definitely missed Shweta Chari, founder of Toybank who is our constant pillar of support and one who always manages to show her support with her presence at the events of every new Toybank chapter - Bangalore and Pune.

We could not have asked for a better start for Toybank Chapter in Delhi/NCR! Toybank thanks all the 13 volunteers who volunteered with us for the first time here. We thank the donors who sponsored the Parle-G biscuit packs for the 70 children at the Mobile Creches centre. We also thank the toy donors from MPS for their generous toy donations!

The children sure did have fun and so did all the volunteers! Catch all the action here!

Here's what our first time volunteers from Delhi/NCR had to say after the event:
Mahesh Kumar Singh:
"This visit was really good and we were enjoyed lot with small kids. This experience is really wonderful and unforgettable. In my view we will collect some goods like cloth etc. for small kids too. I really appreciate the Swetha great efforts to manage this event nicely and hope we will come together to do some more event in future." 

Soumya Mishra:
"I enjoyed the day with kids a lot and am looking forward to be a part of such initiatives. I suggest that along with toys we should have also donated other essential stuffs like clothes, books and medicines. It was a wonderful experience altogether." 

Rajni B Arora:
"It was very encouraging to see so many young people volunteer. Since the group of children I was working with were mostly of the age group 1-3 years, it was not possible to get them to participate in an organised group activity. One to one interaction with such small children thus becomes inevitable even though it was not part of the guidelines. Despite the limitation of time and space and lack of orientation, it was a fruitful exercise and a commendable event." 

Shikha Gupta:
"It was a great experience, I will always cherish the memories..:).I think the heat, intial blunder really didn't matter post meeting the kids. However few points I like to highlight:
I think may be next time, visiting the site beforehand is a suggestion and I think you had mentioned this. Volunteers must meet beforehand to plan the event, activities, do's and dont's.We should decide or atleast discuss beforehand everybody's responsibility to ensure that you don't have to do the running around. For ex. one group takes care of distribution,other to list down the names of children and another to plan activities for kids etc.Also,some volunteers could take responsibility for stuff like water, snacks etc..just in case duration of the event is longer.I think the distribution process could be alot more fun.
I am glad I am a part of Toybank community!Cheers to many more Toybank Delhi events!" 

Aseem Singla:
"The event was really good, entertaining and gave us a in depth view of that part of the scoiety, which we people might have left behind somewhere in the corner. Special thanks to you for arranging such event and give us a chance to contibute for a social cause. I ll look forward for such events in future. Yes, next time we need to arrange some pictures of proffesionals like engineer, doctor, lawyer etc. so that to get the children acquainted with all of them. Other stuff as well, more it will be pictorial, more easily the children ll grasp and adapt." 

Purnendu Kabi:
"Namaste from Pratham Books! It was totally a new experience for me.Though I have been to some other activities ,but this was a different experience and learning all together.It's a nice way to connect directly with the kids and with the community as well.I feel fortunate that we give them some happy moments to them and made them smile.I really feel satisfied that we contributed something to the society. There are some points which I feel can be worked on for the further events of Toybank.

1. I cards mentioning volunteers(Toybank) which would provide a good presence
2. Some planned activity or some story cards reading or games for target audience(age group we are catering),which would help us to keep them involve.
3. We can add books,clothes with the toys as a gift.
4. Visit the venue prior one week to get proper idea about the location and condition of the shelters or institutions which would help the partners or other volunteers to contribute some other required things." 

"It was a really good experience with the small kids. I enjoyed a lot and hope they too have enjoyed and learnt many things from us. I really hope next time many of us will be encouraging more people and volunteering for the same and will be collecting some useful things for the children." 

Shikha Nishad:
"The experience with kids has been wonderful for me and some where at the core of my heart I always wanted to do such type of activity, do my bit for the needy.I would also like to suggest to go to some orphanages, slums, children of prisoners in jail etc, if possible with the formalities in place. However this was an awesome effort by you and I look forward for such an activity to take place soon."