Friday, May 31, 2013

Warm Smiles at IAPA

It was a hot afternoon, 23rd May 2013, when a couple of interns and members of Toybank had a chance to visit the young faces of the IAPA NGO as the first distribution event of the Toybank-IAPA collaboration. The event took place at Khetwadi Municipal School, Grant Road and lasted for around two hours.
We were warmly welcomed by the members of IAPA and not to forget, the nervous and gloomy faces of the kids because they had been summoned to school on a holiday. We started with a few activities, involving all the kids. The game of “Fire in the mountain” turned out to be the perfect ice breaker. Followed with two other fun activities, it was relieving to see those gloomy young faces smile and finally enjoy their holiday.
A few of the talented lot also entertained us with their dance. The kids spoke to us about their ambitions and experiences in life. We, in turn shared ours. It was a pleasant surprise to see how motivated and ambitious the tiny tots were. The joy they felt was palpable as they clutched their gift wrapped toys in their tiny hands. The happiness, awe and cheer that followed was something that none of us can ever forget, something that Toybank has been doing for years but the experience still remains special every single time. Their enthusiasm and smiles filled the room with fresh energy and air. We returned with a lot more motivation, zeal and broader perspective and most importantly, dozens and scores of young blooming friends!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Volunteer meeting @ Dadar, Mumbai on 11th May 2013

What zing! What vibrancy! The air was thick with enthusiasm as Toybank volunteers filed in much before designated time for the quarterly volunteer meet at Moneylife Foundation, Dadar. Everyone was curious about the Nehru topis which adorned the head of Toybank team.

We started with a round of introductions where everybody talked briefly about themselves and their experience with Toybank. At 11 sharp, we stared the meeting with Shweta Chari, the Co-founder of Toybank extending warm welcome to everybody present. With the aid of a PowerPoint Presentation, she then went on to talk about Toybank, its phenomenal growth, its team, the impact it has had on children over 9 years and the future plans.

Next up was the Icebreakers! Everyone was divided into 3 teams to play Name Grid where they were asked to make as many words as possible with the help of the alphabets in their names. Then we moved onto Role Play where each team was given a difficult situation to tackle and through role play, they had to come up with solutions. It was fun watching the teams huddle and discuss intensely while munching away on sandwiches and sipping tea.

Every team had a star performer with Siddharth being the most mischievous kid on the block and Preeti stealing the show as the distracted one. It was a complete laugh riot full of innovation and creativity and yes, simple yet effective solutions to the problems faced during play sessions.

Then we moved on to the DO’s and DON’TS of volunteering at Toybank where the volunteers listed the essential points (filling impact sheets as a DO fetched applause from Shweta :P ). In an interactive forum next, the volunteers discussed the problems faced by them at their respective centres and feasible solutions for the same. Experienced Toybankers like Nutan and Parul also shared the challenges they had to face at their respective centres and how they overcame it.

Amruta went on to introduce a new format called ‘Bal Panchayat’. The Nehru topis worn by the team was for the same concept with everyone taking various responsibilities as Noter, Timer, etc. Through appointment of the children as ministers for Health, Education, Environment and Culture, we hoped to infuse leadership skills, confidence, team spirit, analytical skills and maturity in the kids. It was agreed that the volunteers were free to try it out at their respective centres and then give Toybank a feedback in the next Volunteer meeting.

The session ended with Nutan taking a lead and involving us in fun filled innovative activities which she undertook with children. The modified version of Ringa ringa roses and ‘Aasman mei Chanda Taare’ left us all praising her. Shweta ended the session by thanking everyone present. We proceeded to click pictures by the dozens for keepsake ;)

Attended by:
1. Deepa Kukreja
2. Preeti Ramjiyani
3. Chhaya Patel
4. Nutan Raj
5. Gaurie Pandit
6. Durga Shinde
7. Parul Mukhtyar
8. Sonia Choudhary
9. Siddharth Bose
10. Chadrika Gopalan
11. Saloni Khaitan
13. Namrata

To view more pictures click here

- By Saloni Khetan 

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

A stepping stone in Virar, 20th April 2013

“Living in the future,” once sang Bruce Springsteen

"I see your little palm hovering on the glass,

A significant discomfort creeps within me.

I look at you and then look within,

Trying hard to break the glass,

Break the helplessness.

I stretch out my arm; I stretch out a smile,

Let’s sing a song together,

Let’s be merry together,

Let’s play together!”

Most of our weekdays and weekends are lost in doing the usual, mundane, necessary, and inevitable things. At other times we are either recovering from the regular tedious routines or pondering how to make life slightly more meaningful. Let me re-structure it- This time ‘We’ at ToyBank had a plan for our Saturday- April 20, 2013! As “Changing the world” needs some more planning, instead we thought of spending time with few children - the future of the world! A Toy-Library for the kids- was the plan!

The cheerful ‘ToyBank’ group reached Virar to spread smiles and joy amongst the kids at a government school in Bhoyapada, Virar. And boy, weren’t we received with smiles and ‘namasteys’ already at the door? The very instant the kids saw us, it seemed they decided to have all the fun in the world. We already knew, it would be a rejoicing experience, but let me tell you here- we had a marvelous time though we had responsibility of engaging kids from age ranging between 1 and 7. Whether the puppet-talking activity or under-the-tunnel activity, everybody was rolling in fun and laughter. Sticking to our belief of spreading joy with toys and giving children their right to play, we struck the chord with as many as 80 kids, instantly.

It was different for the kids there and it was pleasurably different for us too. All of a sudden the warm climate wasn’t a botheration, all of a sudden helping the 2 year olds paint patterns and helping them cut designs made absolute sense, all of a sudden- punching codes, sales plans, and filing stories with vengeance every day at work- didn’t even exist. All that mattered then was to ensure that when we leave the room, have the satisfaction somewhere that we made few little hearts smile today.

Surprises, surprises all the way

Whether an Aishwarya or an Amit, with open arms and broad smiles, they convinced us that together we will have a lot of fun. With our team members like Amruta and Durga having set the balls roll, the giggles, laughter, and anticipations saw no end. The catch-and-throw ball game and running under human tunnels gave the kids enough reasons to gush with excitement.

Great minds of the world have said that each one of us learn something or the other every day. We volunteers at Virar (as I take liberty to speak on behalf of all of them) had a humbling as well as an enriching experience. It was the first of its kind of experience for us but all of us unanimously thought that this bunch of kids taught us something as they left our heart warm and positive. Seeing them eat their mid-day meals and lunch in a disciplined fashion with equal concern for the neighbor and siblings was very overwhelming. In our daily fights for existence, we tend to ignore our basic and gentle emotions. This doesn’t mean am saying – we are all a bunch of insensitive humans living in the cities, but we indeed lose touch with ourselves, our emotions , our behavior, and our motivations. Blame it on time or work that we don’t re-discover ourselves and our emotions. There happens to be some chord fixings and fine tunings of our souls in such uplifting experiences.

You ask me if I want to go back to them- Hell yeah, I can’t wait to meet them again! It was a soulful experience. With Shweta ‘Didi’ handing over the toy box to the loving teacher, the afternoon came to a perfect ending with goodbyes from the windows and smiles to tell us we are welcome again.

As we said goodbye to them, we knew it- We are coming back soon!

Attended by: Shweta, Vikram, Niraj, Deepa, Ruta, Amruta, Durga and Shivangi

By Shivangi Bose
To view more pictures, click here.