Tuesday, July 30, 2013

New Play center at Project Swati, 29th June 2013

'Toys', the word synonymous with joy and laughter has always been childhood's best friend. With an objective to create a delightful mocktail of these two worlds, Toybankers from GENPACT and FMS, Delhi, set out to provide toys to children of an NGO called 'Project Swati' in Kanak Durga Colony at R.K. Puram. New Delhi. The solace of a toy is heart rending, more so, for children who are devoid of life's such simple pleasures. The mission was simple, the vision, noble and end goal, achievable.

Having had a head start on time, being 15 minutes ahead of schedule, gave us enough time to take stock of all the toys that had been brought and segregate them by age groups. The venue was teeming with cheerful and anxious faces of children between age groups of 3 thru 12. Our first task was to create clusters (by age group) of a max. of 5 kids lead by one volunteer each. That being accomplished, we rolled up our sleeves and sprung into action. The rules were simple, it had to be a new game that the children hadn't played before and we had to teach them how. Sharp and intelligent as they were, the children were quick to learn and soon were deeply immersed in playing those games that they had learnt just a while ago from their volunteer friends, whom they fondly addressed as 'Didi' and 'Bhaiya'. Soon the venue pulsated with their enthusiastic babble and joules of energy!

We hadn't the slightest whiff as to how the hours sped by and before we knew it, the team of 12 volunteers had played a gamut of games like 'Speller', 'Building Blocks', 'Jigsaw puzzles', 'Chess', 'Ludo', 'Clay Modelling' etc. with the group of 40 children. The children were not devoid of a sense of humour and would laugh out loudly at any mistake that their volunteer friends made (intentional or not...:-)). 

We then decided that it would be incomplete without an outdoor game of Kho-Kho in the garden. To our surprise, some children and volunteers gleefully obliged and were soon divided into two teams. We seemed to overcome the heat and sultriness of a hot June afternoon and were completely involved in the kho-kho game, one group reliving childhood and the other living it! After a joyful and event of two hours, it was time to applaud each other's efforts for making it such a great learning and pleasurable experience. This was followed by a photography session of all the 40 children, volunteers and the teachers at 'Project Swati', to capture the vivid memory of a joyful and jubilant Saturday afternoon. With a heavy heart, we waved goodbye to the children but not without the thought and resolve of being there again soon...

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Monday, July 08, 2013

Toybanks visit to Thane district to set up toy libraries at Gawali Pada and Parali Zilla Parishad School

Today I feel so blessed that I got an opportunity to visit two rural villages in Maharashtra. We had been preparing for the day, the setting up of the toy library and the travel since a week now and today was the day when we were to witness the same. I was accompanied by two more interns and our mentor, Amruta. Honestly, I was a little apprehensive of going due to my poor health for a couple of days, but I am so glad that I made it, else the life lessons that I learnt today at the school probably would have been distant from me.

The journey started at 7:00 A.M. in the morning from Dadar, so that we can cover the more than 100 Kms as early as possible to avoid the traffic and be there on school time. With 5 Cartons filled with more than 130 toys, I was impatiently waiting to reach the place and meet the kids. I did expect the environment and people to be very unprivileged but only the actual field experience can describe it how different it is than usually in words. We did take a short halt for breakfast and resumed to reach the destination only to witness joyous faces of little kids as well as the teachers.
Toys for the day !

 Ahh! Such a warm welcome that was, Gawli Pada. All the kids were so mannered and disciplined that I was ashamed of my own childhood when I felt like a pain to wish a teacher “Good morrrrning, Teacher” with the class. I do remember hiding myself behind the taller ones only to save the effort of standing up. But these kids were way more civilised than us, supposedly. There was a field coordinator from Impact India Foundation, Mr. Manoj Prajapati who accompanied us to this school and actively helped us in explaining the teachers, how to play the games and ways to conduct the play sessions. One by one we unpacked the toys and showed them how to play, and even the teachers were so delighted to see them, as they themselves never really had that kind of a childhood.
The Principal and teachers of Gawli Pada sits for the training

The principal at Gawli Pada Zilla Parishad School signs the agreement with Toybank

The idea was that the teachers understand the games thoroughly and then explain the kids during their play sessions. Meanwhile, Amruta was taking care of the paper work with the principle and soon we were done with all the games for Gawli Pada. Towards the end, we got hand of a Frisbee and started playing in the ground surrounded by classrooms, in the middle of the school. One by one all the kids of the school joined and the thrill on their faces made each of ours’ day! I have never had such a feeling of happiness and accomplishment and will never forget it. The Joy of giving, they say, is indeed the biggest one, and now I understand how so. Its truly a matter of experience.

Firsbee!  All on ground to play
Then we wrapped up and left, with smiling bright faces waving us a good bye and wishing we come back soon. The next stop was a rather very remote village called Parali. The school there was majorly for the tribal kids. This school made me feel ashamed that all of us, every single person, even the person reading this blog, is way too privileged and blessed than we really deserve, where on one hand these people are fighting for their basic survival rights, like access to drinking water, clothes, food and sanitation, we crib each day about things like not so warm food on plate, soiled toilets, unironed clothes, inadequately salty meal or not so chilled drinking water! Many of the children were even victims of domestic violence as told by the teachers on our inquiry. The water that they used for drinking, that they obtained from a 500 meter far away well, was so dirty and filled with algae that not a single person of us would even use it to wash our dirty feet. They drink it each day!
The crowd says it all. They loved the game !

The plate get delicious with their smiles 
The teacher at Parali Zilla Parishad School takes the initiative to teach the children

A group photo at Parali Zilla Parishad School with our BITS interns. SMILE !

Here too we followed the same activities of sensitising the teachers and teaching them the games. Their cheerful and laughing faces was what that saved our teardrops from falling. All in all the events of this day made me think and rethink on many things in life and I am really thankful to Toy Bank that I was chosen for this job.

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” - By Ketul (BITS intern )

Toybank's rural toy libraries in Thane disttict

"Only where children gather is there any real chance of fun."

And the setting up of the rural toy library had loads of it. Each one of us, me and another intern with our mentor, Amruta knew this trip would be a different experience all together, but no one expected it to be so exuberant and inspiring. In the end, we realized, it just weren’t the kids who benefited, but us too.

 We left early in the morning so as to avoid the traffic and also the place we were headed to was about 100kms from where we started. With loads of toys and enthusiasm, we embarked on a journey that we were eagerly waiting for. We then stopped for breakfast and met project coordinator from Impact India Foundation, Mrs. Manoj Prajapati. He was to accompany us to the two schools which were shortlisted for setting up toy libraries. The first place on our itinerary was the Impact India Foundation office in Wada, where we met the Project Director in charge of the Wada region. He briefed us on the projects that they have under-taken and appreciated the initiative taken by toybank in setting up toy libraries in the rural region. Next on our list was a school in Desai taluka that was very soon going to be bustling with activities. We were greeted upon our arrival and Manoj sir introduced us to the principal and the kids. The anxious expression on the faces of the kids while we were unloading the toys was a moment to capture, and one I personally would never forget. Each and every kid had a questionable look, what is hidden in those cartons?
Mr.Manoj from Impact India Foundation introduces Toybank to the children of Desai Zilla Parishad School

The curious faces with a pinch of excitement to know what there in the boxes?

 Very soon they got their answers, and now were restlessly waiting to pounce on them. Before that, we had to explain the rules to the principal and the teacher, so that they could explain it to the kids in the manner they would understand. Amruta took over the formalities part, explaining on how to maintain a toy library, meaning of different color stickers, maintaining a proper log of the toys and some general stuff. After the explanation and the formalities, we got down to what we enjoy the most, playing! The kids were shy in the beginning but got over it after a while. We played some numerical puzzles and board games which the kids thoroughly enjoyed. After spending some time with them, we had to leave for another school. The principal gave a vote of thanks and was a really proud moment for us, especially for the amateur interns! Next stop was a Ashramshala in Kalamba, another taluka in Wada district.
Training the teachers on the maintenance of toy library

And its time to play !

The lush greenery, tranquil weather and the calm made for a breathtaking panorama, and it made our day every more special. After an hour ride in this insane beauty, we reached Kalamba. An over-enthusiastic principal, Mrs. Rajendra Patil greeted us with rose, yes rose!! and gave us an introduction about the school and told us how harsh conditions these kids have to face, and it was really inspiring to see these kids smile when they live through so much difficulties. And to make them smile for real, believe me, it’s the best feeling in the world that no blog or words could ever describe, its godly! It motivated us more and with Amruta doing her routine, we got down to playing with the kids this time. Teachers too joined in and to see them so excited, everything just felt right. We taught and played puzzles, an interesting game of Squap (an outdoor game played in the west), some block games and many more. 
The warm welcome received from the principal at Kalamba Ashramshala

Our interns having a training session for teachers on how to play the games

We asked kids to join in and without any hesitation, they stepped right in. We conducted games between them, played with teachers and on seeing this; the principal finished the formalities early and joined us! It was a delightful sight to see everyone cheering, laughing and joking around. Even the girls, who were extremely shy in the beginning, joined in. It became a festive atmosphere, and we had forgotten how late it was. We had to leave, and again, Manoj sir and the principal applauded our efforts with kids clapping continuously, we thanked them all for their cooperation. We left completely satisfied and wanting for more. Although we were late and had to face Mumbai’s trademark traffic, the smiles that the kids showered us with were more than enough to counter it. In all, this day would be cherished for all the excitement, fun, lessons that we learned and would like to end it with a quote from a famous personality:

“From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.” 

- By Raghav (BITS Intern)

Monday, July 01, 2013

Toy distribution event at Each One Teach One, Ville Parle on 22nd June 2013

An overcast sky, predictions of rain. A lazy Saturday morning for the populus. But we at Toybank were active, for today was a special day. Today we had a distribution even at Ville Parle Municipal School. We reached the school as early as possible with 4 boxes full of toys and very soon all the volunteers from Morgan Stanley (our partners for the event) gathered and the entire team met the co-ordinator for the distribution right outside the door. While at the door, we could see students still filtering in, and while they didn't know that we were from Toybank or that they were to receive toys, the smile on seeing the boxes of toys was unmistakable. We finally entered the school and the quaint looking structure suddenly changed into something impressive. The team moved upstairs and we were seated in a classroom, and one could see the volunteers remniscence their own school life. After a few minutes of informal chat, Ruta (our very own Toybanker) started with the orientation. First was a round of informal introduction, where the Toybank memebers were introduced to the Morgan Stanley volunteers and vice versa. Next we were briefed about activities that were going to take place, and we all instantly knew that it was going to be a fun day. So, some smiles and an orientation later, we found ourselves in another classroom, only this one was full of kids waiting in anticipation.

It is said, “One smile is enough to cure a thousand tears”. If that were true, then the smile these kids gave on seeing us with so many toys, can surely cure all the sadness in the world. We started with introducing ourselves to these children. A couple of volunteers had brought their kids along, and the energy and enthusiasm that these kids were displaying was something of motivation to all of us. Completely envigored, we started with our ice-breaker activity. The first activity required groups of 2s, and each member would have to introduce his/her partner and vice versa. The activity took a sudden turn to humor, when we discovered almost everyone's favorite food in the room was Pani Puri. However what captured us the most about the introduction session was that each kid present there aspired to be something, something big. A clear departure from the standard engineers and doctors, today we heard everything from musician to F-1 driver. While some of the ambitions are nothing more that mere naievity, it is the zeal with which they work to keep this ambition alive, is what moved us and somewhere instilled a sense of respect for these children in us.

Once we saw all the kids gelling together and feeling free and comfortable, we started with the actual games. The first game was a know your team game, wherein 4 groups of 10-12 children were made, and they were asked to list down 10 common things between themselves. Each group assigned a leader automatically whose task was writing the points down and co-ordinating the activity and at the end announcing these points to the others. When the children started with their heated discussions, we seized the opportunity to set up things for the next activity and ofcourse, take some snapshots of this amazing gathering. The leader of the first group stood up after some time and started reading out the list. Any guesses on the first point? Pani Puri ofcourse. After that we heard almost everything from burger to cricket to music to “we like studying”. Once all the 4 groups were done, there was a round of applause in the classroom for this wonderful activity.

Now was the time for the most interesting activity of all: Math Circuit. There were 20 papers around the room divided into 2 parts by a horizontal line, with the first part containing an algebraic expression and the second one, a number. The answer to the expression was present in the 2nd part of some other paper. The challenge required solving a question, locating its answer and solving the question on that paper. The beauty of this game lies in the fact that if one solves each question correctly then he/she would complete a full circle and return back to the first question. This was an individual competition and the children immediately set to work. The fun part was when the kids of the volunteers also joined the race and quickly started solving the expressions. To our amazement, the students finished the activity quite quickly and with commendable accuracy and from the look on their faces, we knew this activity had been a big success. Looks like everyone loves a good old competition.

Now was the time for the final activity, a fun filled craft activity. The item of interest was a paper crown. We distributed sheets of newspaper around the room. The volunteers displayed the procedure of making the paper crown, which was quite simple. However the trick was something else; one could put a couple of folds and turn this crown into a pouch or a Nehru Topi. The activity quickly gathered interest and the children started improvising. Almost all children came up with their own version. However, the most noteworthy was when a couple of guys turned the crown upside down, made a few folds and converted it into a very durable looking (golf) cap. Seeing such innovation is inspirational and somewhere along the line reassuring, the reassurance that the future is in safe hands.

Finally, we started distributing the toys to the children. At the end of the day, everyone likes receiving presents, and so we had carefully wrapped each toy and gave one to each child. There were board games, soft toys, and almost anything appropriate for these children. These children looked really happy, and it is my belief that at these moments, one can truly appreciate the Toybank motto. We got some awesome snapshots of all the children holding their toys and of the volunteer team. After thanking us for these toys, the children went back to their original classrooms and we thanked the Morgan Stanley volunteers for all the help, as this entire event would be next to impossible without them. We departed with a feeling that we would miss these kids but with an unusual happiness in our hearts. In the end one can only say “Life is not about happiness, rather it is about sharing of happiness”.

By: Soumya Dipta Biswas (SD)

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Toybank at NGO India Exhibition 2013

NGO India is back again! The second chapter of this large platform for NGOs to spread awareness and exhibit their merchandise was held at The Bombay Exhibition Centre, Goregaon, on the 14th and 15th of June. Toybank was once again part of this event with its own attractive stall in the “Market Place” of the exhibition. The stall was manned by Toybankers who explained the functioning of Toybank tirelessly to the hundreds that visited the stall. The stall also had a star attraction ‘Happy – The Fun Loving Clown’, who kept the people laughing and entertained throughout the day.

The possession of the stall was taken on 13th June in order to setup and decorate it. Ruta, along with a few other Toybankers took charge and decorated the stall which would’ve won or at least contested closely for the award of the best decorated stall if there was such an award. After a lot of hard work and overcoming the difficulties faced, all the walls were filled with wall hangings of different sorts to give a full picture of Toybank. The stall had a ladder on one side with each step depicting a different age group and a graduation hat on top to symbolically represent the work of Toybank. The motto of Toybank and a poster was also put up on the walls of the stall with soft toys hanging everywhere in the stall. The stall also had an LCD TV on which videos and photos of the work done by Toybank were continuously played.

The first day of the exhibition was open for only corporates. The day began with the setting up of merchandise on one table and the other table being set up with the items for Scrap Magic. ‘Happy’ had made few sets of toys with scrap that could explain scientific principles to children in a simple way. There were set ups to explain the working of a mono-rail through magnetic levitation, a magnetic compass and the principle of converting linear motion into rotational motion. ‘Happy’ had also made a “Piggy Bank” in the shape of a pig using items that are discarded at home every day. The visitors to the stall were amazed by the simplicity of the setups. The Toybank stall also attracted the likes of Kajal Agarwal of Singham fame and many other people. In the afternoon, ‘Happy’ started taking rounds in the maze of stalls and spreading the laughter disease in every stall as other Toybankers continued talking to the people who dropped by the Toybank stall. The events of the day ended by around 6 pm and all the Toybankers got down to packing up everything that was outside.

The second day of the exhibition was open to the public, but children below the age of 18 weren’t allowed. This proved to be a slight problem as the science experiments would have been more appealing to the children, but nevertheless there were many adults interested in this too. The exhibition was open to the public at 10 am and slowly the crowd started trickling in. ‘Happy’ wore a different costume today and was again the star attraction of the day. As he couldn’t finish exploring the whole maze of stalls which were more than a 100 the previous day, he got about moving in a different direction and was going on rounds for almost the whole day. The second day, being a Saturday, saw a few more Toybankers join us in the stalls and help out. Again, there were many different people who visited the stall. The exhibition proved to be a very helpful for Toybank as it helped to bring in many volunteers and contacts in various fields that would help us. The day ended with the packing up of all the items in the stall and taking photos with all the volunteers together celebrating the grand success.

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- By R. Prashaanth

Distribution event at Snehasadan on 8th June 2013

Morgan Stanley partnered with Toybank to distribute toys to over 200 children in two NGOs.

Morgan Stanley had a collection drive across all their branches in Mumbai at the end of which a few volunteers from Morgan Stanley met on the first of June in the office in Goregaon with a few Toybankers to sort and wrap the toys collected. The toys collected were wrapped in newspaper and sorted into different categories to make it easier to distribute to the children in the NGOs.

The Toy Distribution at Snehasadan was held on the 8th of June. The volunteers from Morgan Stanley were briefed about the activities planned for the day so that they could help out in conducting the event smoothly. The children slowly trickled in as they were slowly split into 6 different groups. The volunteers were assigned groups and they went about warming up the children with a few rounds of ‘Simon Says’. Followed by this, they were taught how to play ‘group knot’, where the whole group except one person had to form a knot by randomly interweaving their hands and the person who wasn’t part of this had to untangle the whole knot. Slowly, the groups formed more and more knots, each time making it more challenging to be untangled. To make the game even more challenging, two leaders were selected, one who would make the knots and the other who would solve these knots. These games imbibe not only a sense of team work but also enhance the leadership qualities. However the best, and ofcourse the most important thing is that these games are pure fun :P

After this, a game of Tunnel Ball was organized. Each group was made to stand in a line and a ball/soft toy had to be passed from one person to another front to back. Once the last person had the ball, he had to run to the front of the line and then rinse repeat. The game ended when the first guy would reach the beginning of the line again. The children were so eager to win that they all started even before the rules could be explained fully. The teams slowly progressed as the volunteers cheered on their own groups and motivated them to move forward. The slow progress soon turned into frenzied haste as the teams raced to win. We had a photo finish as two of the teams finished almost simultaneously. It was really heartwarming to see the kids enjoying themselves thoroughly.

Now that all the children were excited, we had one last game of four corners. The children ran around in circles as the beat of the spoon on the plate reverberated through the air. The four corners were named after 4 different colours and were manned by volunteers wearing that color. We were surprised as the children seemed to know the game better than we did. Many of the kids chose the yellow corner as it was manned by our very own Toybanker Jainesh, who seemed to have become a favourite among the children. But unfortunately, yellow was the first team to get out. At the end there was a close contest between the blue and red with the red corner finally ending up as the winners.

After an hour of activities and entertainment, the children were then given their toys. Each child was given a toy to take home. The children jumped with joy all excited as they got their toys and ran around to see what their friends had got and to play with their toy. This brought to an end an event that was filled with fun and excitement with the happy children and enthusiastic volunteers always jumping around to make the most of the day. The session was wrapped up with a few photos taken with the volunteers and all the children. It was a heartwarming experience for everyone to make the children happy and put a smile on their face.

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