Thursday, August 10, 2017

Bombay Central Teacher Training Session - Sarthak Dalal

The recent teacher training session at Bombay Central was a very humbling and eye-opening experience for me. It was the first teacher training session I participated in as a volunteer with Toybank. I was a little nervous before it began. Throughout the session, I was learning ways to effectively communicate and lead people who I cannot directly speak with because of a language barrier (note that I am a Junior in High School living in the US – volunteering with Toybank India). I appreciate the teachers who give their whole lives to educate the special needs children and ensure that they lead a relatively successful life. Watching them do their work touched my heart. We first started off by setting up the toys and the posters and projector for the power point presentation. This required me to walk around the school multiple times to get the necessary materials from one room to another. As I was moving the objects, I noticed the poor conditions that the students went to school in, but also noticed their happiness and joy with what they had. They were grateful for whatever little they had, and this reminded me to always be grateful in my life. Helping to educate these teachers on Toybank was a very touching experience because I knew that we were educating people who would use our principles and toys to better the lives of many underprivileged children. The teachers seemed very interested by our presentation and by the end were more than eager to learn how to play with the games and teach their children. It’s always satisfying to know that our message and ideas of helping underprivileged children are spreading to other people who will implement them to better these children’s lives.

After we set everything up we waited for the teachers and kids to come in and then we started the presentation. As I was listening, I found the presentation very in-depth and convincing, as the presenters discussed Toybank’s message, goals, impact etc. The presenters gave an overall description of the organization. Once it was over, we had 30 minutes of play time with the teachers and special needs kids where we teach them how to play with the games and toys that we provided. The teachers learned with ease, but it was much harder with the kids. At first, it was difficult and nearly impossible to play and teach the kids but as time progressed I learned and could do a somewhat better job.
It was difficult as I didn’t know how to handle some situations, or how they would understand the games. I showed them, by first doing it myself and then after a while, they slowly seemed to get it little by little. I failed in teaching them the games, but I feel that if given more time to interact, they would have learned much more and would have completed the full game. I truly felt sorry for the special needs kids as they came from non-affluent background and therefore did not get the proper therapy and care they deserve. I did whatever I could to help them. Time flew fast and soon it was 3’o’clock and time to clean up. Quickly, we put everything away, took our group photo, said our goodbyes and left.  Overall, this experience was a unique experience for me, as it was my first teacher training session.  I learned a lot and took a lot away from the 2 hours I spent at the school. I learned to be grateful for what I have in life and to always help others who are not so fortunate. I hope that I brightened these kids day and hope the teachers learned about Toybank and will encourage and teach their students to play with toys. I feel satisfied knowing that I made a positive impact to the society by educating these teachers about the significance and importance of letting kids play with toys, and am confident that they will in turn encourage under privileged children to play with toys. I am eager to help spread the Toybank message to as many schools and people as possible. I thoroughly enjoyed and learned a lot from this experience and hope to do this again.

- Sarthak Dalal, July 2017
(A Happy Toybanker!)


My Indian Experience – 2nd year in a row - Sarthak Dalal

I will remember the four play sessions that I attended in Borivali for a long time. Although, I had volunteered for Toybank last year, I learned a quite a bit more from my play sessions this time. I was once again shocked to see the conditions in which these children went to school and felt sorry for them that they had no other choice. The conditions these kids studied in reminded me to always be grateful for what I have while always helping the less fortunate.
Coming from the United States, one of the things that shocked me the most was the quality of the classrooms. The desks looked really old and unstable and it seemed that they would fall at any moment. The roof was a tin roof, and that meant that the classroom heated up very quickly. Also, there was always the imminent threat of the electricity going out at any second, leaving all the students and teacher in darkness. The walls were old and worn out, and the whole room was very unstable and seemed like it could collapse easily. Despite all these faults in the infrastructure, the kids were about as happy as anyone. They did not seem fazed by the poor condition of the school and were always excited to work and learn.

The other major fundamental difference that I noticed was the teachers’ attitude towards the kids. They were very strict and were not afraid to scream at the kids and use force to get their point across and discipline the children. I had never seen anything like this in America and was shocked when I first noticed this. Although, the practices of banging a ruler/stick on a desk and screaming at students to get them to listen to you was strange, I saw that it worked very well and that the kids here were more disciplined and mannered than back in the United States. I have mixed feelings about this style of teaching because on one hand it works, but on the other hand I see it as awkward, and too intimidating to be used on preprimary and primary students. I think, in the long term these tactics hurt much more than they help in the short term.

Since the children were always so happy and excited, I had no problem playing with these students and teaching them various games. A lot of kids I was working with were very interested in puzzles and some were quite good at them. Overall, I really loved working with the underprivileged children as their happiness is always contagious and it was deeply touching to see them having fun and enjoying themselves with the toys that they rarely get to play with. Their energy, happiness and curiosity always made the play sessions fun no matter what. I enjoyed the play sessions and hope to do more soon.

However, playing with the special needs kids was much harder. I did not know how to handle them and it got really difficult trying to teach them how to play the games. I felt lots of empathy for them as they were born with such genetic conditions that severely disabled their learning ability. I learned that the best way to teach them and enable them to play with games was to slowly explain it to them and model it before letting them play. It is a slow process trying to get the kids to understand and play the game, but after an hour or so they can play with the toy or game sufficiently without any help. Working with the special needs kids was very chaotic and it was impossible to work with more than one kid at a time. They were very excited and full of energy playing with the games but is was difficult to get them to focus on one thing for a few minutes. All in all, working with the special needs kids was a challenge for me that I will need to work on in future.

 Overall, I enjoyed my experiences playing with these kids at play sessions. My experience at the play sessions was both fun as well as challenging. I learned quite a bit from these and most of all I learned to never stop helping people that are less fortunate than me. These experiences were eye-opening and deeply humbling as I saw how underprivileged kids live and why they need these toys and care. I am very happy to have volunteered with Toybank and I will be back to India very soon to once again help Toybank and better the lives of these underprivileged children.

Thank You TOYBANK for giving me this opportunity.
- Sarthak Dalal, July 2017
(A Happy Toybanker!)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Global Giving visits Toybank!

Toybank hosted one of Global Giving’s In-the-Field officers, Sachin, at the Toybank office and play session in June!

Through the day, we walked Sachin through our vision, mission, projects and plans for the year ahead. A well-connected, knowledgeable man on a mission, he was full of appreciation, suggestions and ideas for us to grow our reach on Global Giving and on the ground.

Also part of our day with Global Giving was a fun-packed play session at our Ashadeep Centre in Andheri, where Sachin participated in the play session and conducted an activity of his own with the kids, a rhythm and memory game that kept the kids, our volunteers, field officers and team members on their toes and engaged throughout!

We’re pleased to share more of our work with Global Giving, a platform that has offered Toybank a lot of resources and support, worked for us and thousands more organizations like us. Being part of the Global Giving network has been a stimulating learning experience and a fund raising opportunity like no other for Toybank, and we’re excited to give the suggestions Sachin has made for boosting our effectiveness and presence on it a good whirl!

To give our Global Giving page a glance or share with friends and family worldwide that may wish to support our work, follow this link

Friday, July 07, 2017

Taking on Waste Management at the Toybank Office!

Every day we add in small or large way to the waste in the world that has nowhere to go. Toybank has looked into some our unhelpful habits to be part of the solution and adopted greener ways to work!

The good people from Skrap audited our office and came back in a few weeks with lots of suggestions to manage the waste we generate. Starting with food, we have brought in a set of compact, stackable compost pots lined with paper and coco peat for all our wet waste disposal. Over months of accumulating layers, the active contents of the peat and a couple of manual rotations, the pots will serve as compost for the plants we have at our office.

As a unit, Toybank has brought down its use of paper to the minimum, and the little paper waste and other dry waste like plastic, cans and the occasional disposable bag we do use go to one of two Recycling bins. 

Though it surely is going to take some initial getting used to, we’re keen on getting habituated to better waste management and be greener employees and members of the community.

Teachers Training Sessions in our centers at Gilder Lane, SSB and MHB Schools

One of the most important cornerstones of Toybank’s welfare work has been it’s interaction with teachers from our partner NGOs and schools. Over April through June, we have conducted 8 such teachers’ training sessions, impacting 134 teachers in the process!

The most recent of these were conducted for the amazing teachers of Gilder Lane Municipal School, Sanskriti Samvardhan Mandal in Nanded and our MHB partner schools in Malvani. Through sessions like these, Toybank connects with teachers in small groups to sensitize them to our work, understand the power of play and the need to introduce it in any measure in a child’s life and how they can help propagate the joy and learning through games and play among their students in a fun and engaging way. 

We also learn a lot about the challenges teachers face like absenteeism and issues with concentration that is something children everywhere face, but the teachers at such schools face everyday. Building a rapport with these schools, our field officers are able to exchange new games and ways to keep children engaged and involved with activities at school through Play.

In our visit to our centre in SSM, Nanded, the training session brought out some incredible stories of how play has changed the mood and spirit of the school in a big way. The Toybank team was touched by the work of a talented artist the school has hired to make a game room with all the toys Toybank has set up in the game library at SSM.

Along with our own research, feedback from sessions like these help Toybank pack our libraries and play sessions with games and activities that are tried and tested success stories!

Toybank at the Sahyog Art Exhibition

On the 23rd-25th January 2017, a host of some of the most talented up-and-coming artists in the country came together and displayed their paintings and sculptures at the Price of Wales Museum in Kala Ghoda. Brainchild of Satish Patil and Satyendra Rana, the art show transcended competition and rivalries, and made a beautiful union of talent that resonated with visitors and art-lovers in an amazing way!  

 To our joy, Toybank was NGO of choice at the event, spurred by a recommendation from one of our favourite young artists at the exhibition, Aadhya Shivkumar. 

We had a chat with Aadhya after the event, and she had this to say:

What is the reason you decided to support Toybank through the exhibition?
I found out about Toybank and began volunteering with them through my school CAS activities. I saw how eagerly the Colaba Municipal School children greeted us when we went to play with them, and I was touched by what Toybank is doing so I thought I should support them in some way. When I was invited to participate in a group art show, I suggested that we support Toybank and spoke to them about my experience. They readily agreed.

When did you begin painting?
I have loved art since I was very young. I took art classes through primary and middle school and decided that I wanted art for my ICSE optional subject in Class 9 and 10. I painted my first canvas when I was 9 or 10.

What were the type of paintings you had at the exhibition?
I had a series of semi-abstract nature paintings in bright acrylic colours; I wanted paintings that would make people happy.

How many paintings got sold?
I gave four canvases for the art exhibition. To my joy, three out of four of them were sold!

Aadhya, her family, the other artists, as well as the Sahyog team have contributed smiles and cheers to many of the children we work with, and Toybank thoroughly enjoyed and is honored by the opportunity to partner and be part of the wonderful experience!

Toybank at our Intern Nakuul’s Arangetram at the Chembur Fine Arts Society

On the 17th of June, Toybank was represented at one of our intern, Nakuul Sridhar’s Arangetram, a traditional music event where he showcased his amazing talent on the Mrudangam. 

Over the evening of his magical performance held at the Chembur Fine Arts Centre, Toybank mustered 30 new supporters that collectively donated generously towards reaching out to more children through Play! We were positively amazed by the interest shown by the attendees, who collectively showered us with games, inquiries and donations to further our reach! To top it off, we were handed 4 big bags of toys to sanitize, sort and distribute and enquiries for volunteering and collection drives from many. 

The Toybank team is hugely grateful to the Sridhars for the thoughtful invitation, mention at the event and sharing a slice of Nakuul’s big day with us! Nakuul has been an amazingly talented streak in a sea of interns, supporters and volunteers that have helped Toybank grow over the past few years, and we were delighted that he and the Sridhars saw an opportunity for Toybank to share our impact, work, and reach through Play.

Being one of our younger Toybankers and a superb musician at 16, the Toybank team is not just inspired but so very proud of his success and excited for everything yet to come his way in the future!

People at Play Session at QTube Café!

The team at Toybank has shared some it’s hardest laughs, memorable moments and nail-biting bouts of competition at our play sessions at QTube Café. Since our first session, it’s been our monthly platform to get to know our volunteers, interns and supporters a little better and build relationships with them over our favorite pass-time: board games and a whole lot of them!

Conducted on the last Thursday of every month by Toybank, the play sessions have gathered momentum for being a fun way to learn the new games we’ve acquired, and a great way to unwind with a fun challenge at hand for our regulars.

Quoridor was the showstopper at this month’s session: players had a pawn each to send across to the other side of a checked board. From start to finish, players ought to overcome the fences the other players place. Pictureka, Jenga, Uno and Scrabble were among the favorites from the day in the crowd of 14. It was a loaded evening of fun, and the activity was led by students from American School of Bombay’s Youth Wing.

We’re building on the next play session on the 27th of July to be one with more new faces, new games to unravel and an original, super fun activity by our Youth Wing! 

Thursday, June 01, 2017

The Chinese in Action group visits Toybank!

Toybank hosted Chinese in Action volunteers this week! The not-for-profit citizen association based in Mainland China  works for the underprivileged 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 kids engaged in pretend play with frog jumps, on-the-spot dance movements to nursery rhymes 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

Volunteers take up Play Sessions for our pre-primary kids at YMCA, Bandra

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.