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.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Toybank Delhi Update - August 2016

Here is a short summary of all the activities that have happened in Delhi since April this year:
We have had 5 rounds of toy sorting, wherein we cleaned and packed more than 400 toys and games that have reached more than 350 children over the last few months. These have been used for:
1 - A toy library for 100+ kids in Mangar Primary school -  Classes 1 to 4th. Play session with class 5th is still pending. Pictures here. 

2- A toy library for the kids at Deepalya, Sheikh Sarai (serving 80 plus kids every week)
Pictures here.

3- 7 cartons sent for 3-4 creches in Tilonia, Rajasthan. Pics shared by Barefoot volunteers. Our target is to reach 33 creches by year end. Pictures here.

4 - A play session at an NGO run centre in Gurgaon, managed by a group of MDI students. Click here to see more.

5- A library at Shiksha trust, Gurgaon. The centre has more than 100 students. And we need to send more toys/games to them soon! Pictures of the library here.

Toybankers have had a great time setting up and playing games with the kids at these centres. A special thanks to volunteers from JCL for all their time and effort in these libraries. We even distributed a good amount of stationery items this time. Thanks to Shyamak Das who collected, Saurabh Matha who sorted & stored, and Suneet (our dedicated volunteer from Vasant Kunj), who finally took the responsibility to distribute. Lastly thank you to all the volunteers, who contributed in collections.

We have been able to sort and use almost all the toy collections till now. Need much more in the coming weeks. Please do volunteer for collections if you can. 
Celebrating the 70th year of Independence by sharing joy :)

The Toybank Team

Monday, August 29, 2016

My Indian Experience - Write up by our young Toybank Intern Sarthak Dalal


My Indian Experience

I am a Toybank volunteer who lives in the United States. I just finished my freshman year in high school. My relatives live in India and my family visits them every couple years. This summer was one of those years. I had very little idea of what India would be like, as I hadn’t visited India in a long time. Back in the Unites States, I had a job that I loved. I was an after school teacher at one of the local elementary schools. My job was to play and interact with kids, teach and help them with homework. I had to supervise the kids to make sure they didn’t do anything wrong or bad, and to correct them if they did. The job was fun because I think it is very important for all children to get an opportunity to build happy lives. I always wanted to help more children though. There are millions of children who are underprivileged in the world. So I thought of using my summer vacation to find something to do where I can further my cause and in turn help the community. This is when I found Toybank. It had a great message: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men”. I took a look at their website and it said that they help 38000 children lead better lives. I was impressed and decided to sign up as a volunteer for Toybank.

 So, here I was in Mumbai, India to spend my summer months with under privileged children. I had many amazing experiences while volunteering with Toybank but there were three that really stood out to me. One of them was my meeting with the Toybank CEO Shweta Chari. On my drive to the Toybank headquarters, I was nervous, I didn’t know what the experience would be like to meet a CEO. I had never met or interacted with a CEO of a company before. I expected the CEO to be a very serious and strict person. Instead, she was the absolute opposite. She was nice and friendly, which helped to ease my anxiety a lot. At the meeting, she explained to me and my parents with an elaborate presentation what Toybank was all about. She also talked about the kids helped by Toybank, the different volunteer opportunities for me, etc. I was impressed by her humble nature. I made a mental note that great leaders / CEOs are so humble even after they have achieved so much in their lives. I participated in several play sessions with underprivileged kids as a volunteer for Toybank. But, my first one was the most special, the play session with the kids who live in the slums of Mumbai. My expectation was that the place would be really bad. And I was correct, the slums were awful, I couldn’t believe these kids would be living in such conditions for most of their lives. The roads were cramped and cluttered, the homes falling apart, the whole place reeking of a terrible smell. I felt really bad for all the children that had to suffer through all this every day. Sadly, the kids didn’t even have a proper play area, as it was demolished by the rains. So, we decided to do our play session in the local temple. The children were all very happy to even get to play. They were all screaming and jumping with joy. I was so shocked to see all these kids enjoying the play even in conditions like this. I didn’t expect any of this. I really enjoyed that play session because it showed me that you don’t have to be rich to have fun. I was impressed. The thing I took from this experience was that it’s up to us to play and have fun in life without getting impacted by the environment around us. These children had no expensive toys, no air conditioned play area, no iphones, ipads, etc. but they were having loads of fun and were HAPPY. Back in the US, I have seen children having everything they can ask for but still are unhappy, sad and complaining a lot. To get a deeper and broader understanding of how difficult it is to run an NGO, I worked in the back office of Toybank. I did the inventory, sorting and checking toys and games in Toybank’s “sorting center”. The experience was very unique. My expectation at first was that this type of volunteering would be easier than the play sessions, but that myth was quickly shattered when I learned that inventory sorting had its own unique challenges. The volunteers who work in this inventory have one of the most important roles. They have to check and make sure that all toys are working and proper, discarding broken toys. This is a very tedious job but also very important. If the children don’t get working toys to play with, it might not go well for the children. Along with this, they have to sort the toys into different categories such as strategy, general, etc. I realized that to organize the play sessions with kids, there are many people working behind the curtain. I realized that there is generally more to running an NGO than what meets the eye.

 Anytime someone travels to a foreign country they are bound to face challenges, that’s just the nature of the world. Sometimes, the challenges are small, but sometimes they take lots of hard work and adapting to overcome. The challenges that I faced in India were tough, but they made me a much better person, and taught me that ability to quickly adapt to changing circumstances is a very important life skill. For example, living in the United States, I didn’t know much Hindi at all. I could speak short phrases but that was about it. So, it was a challenge to communicate with the Toybank volunteers and the underprivileged children. Throughout my stay in India I learned more phrases and words in Hindi, so I could have a basic conversation with almost anyone there. I also grew accustomed to speaking “Hinglish” a mixture of Hindi and English to fully communicate with the volunteers and children. In addition to the language, the overall culture in India was a major shock to me. India is a nation that thrives on chaos. For instance, nobody really follows the traffic rules in India. Anywhere you go there are people driving on a red signal, not following lanes, etc.  The first few days I was shocked by this and I was frightened. I thought that if people are not following rules, many accidents will happen. But somehow in all this chaos things just worked fine. It felt like there was order in chaos and things always worked out. Over time, I realized that there was nothing to worry. The people in India are very alert and somehow avoid accidents. This environment makes Indians prepared to face any situation. Actually, I started to respect that quality in all Indians. Another example of a challenge is the amount of pollution in India. There are various types, noise pollution, water pollution, air pollution etc. I was so scared that I did not want to leave the apartment. But, I noticed that the millions of other people living in the city were not falling sick, or bothered from any of the pollution. This is when I realized that if it isn’t bothering them, why should it bother me. I learnt to adjust to the new environment.

Throughout my stay in India, I learned many life lessons. I developed a broad perspective and it’s always good to get global exposure. Most people from developed countries never visit developing countries in their lives, because they feel that it is unnecessary. Therefore, I am one of the few westerners who has seen both sides of the world. I feel like I now have appreciation for things which I used to take for granted.  We have to be grateful for what we have and always be happy because there are people in this world who struggle for basic necessities of life. This trip to India has taught me to be more thankful and humble in life to god, men and women of all backgrounds. At last, Indians have me taught to always persevere and never give up. A lot of Indians face setbacks in their life just because of the country and environment they are in. Yet, they don’t give up, and they still strive for their major life goals even after setbacks. From the kids who live in the slums, to the CEO of Toybank, to my own relatives. I have never seen anything like this to this degree anywhere else on the planet. In conclusion, India has really changed the way I look at things and has taught me many valuable ideas and life lessons.
Sarthak Dalal
August 15, 2016

Friday, January 15, 2016

HEARDS members would really want to thank Toy Bank for donating toys towards HEARDS Child labor rehabilitation centers.  We started to utilize the toys donated by you which really found to be so interesting.  As per my observation I have found that toys and games not only amuse children, but also stir their imagination, stimulate creative instinct and spontaneous thinking. They also sharpen the child’s reasoning enlarge his/ her vision, encourage free flow of thoughts, improve observation power and concentration. Some toys and games test speed and perception. Some others teach discipline, honesty, truth, courage, etc .and develop the spirit of co-operative competitiveness. I found after utilizing these toys an interesting fact as long as the human society realizes this basic truth, it will remain incomplete. HEARDS will certainly intend fillings this void.
HEARDS will certainly realize its importance because all these days we were teaching non-formal and formal education through easy based learning methodologies but now we started to realize that we need to include toys are one of the most effective teaching aid.  I also realized that our children at our rehabilitation centers feel that the toys and games will stimulate the child’s perception and imagination, encourage their mental development and this process will create the process of learning with more greater fun.

Our organization believes that today’s children are tomorrow’s pillars of strength, and hence anything done for them is never adequate enough. This is an innovative step towards rehabilitation of child laborers which were not taken as a component since decades of working on child labor rehabilitation.  Certainly the toys will be utilized in a more efficient way in the future and come out with more objectives.