My internship at Toybank so far has allowed me to experience a selection of all the different aspects of what they do. I am fortunate enough to have been able to attend their Annual Distribution Event on Saturday 16th September, which celebrated their 13th birthday. The event itself was incredible in bringing together volunteers, students, teachers and the Toybank team alike. Underpinning the event was the intention of giving these lesser privileged children not just a toy to take home but a day to cherish and remember for the rest of their lives.
In all honesty I went to the event not 100% sure what to expect, I was anticipating something similar to the play sessions I’ve attended but on a much larger scale. What I experience was unlike any of the play sessions I have previously attended. Whereas the purpose of the play sessions is to educate the children through the medium of play in weekly sessions, this purpose on Saturday was to distribute toys to all 650 children at Subhedar Ramaji Ambedkar School. Whilst the toys at the play centre libraries are educational these were purely gifts with an emotional value to them, such as a stuffed toy. If you were to look back on your childhood nearly every single one of us would have a toy had a strong emotional attachment too - I know I did. It was incredibly inspiring to be able to witness Toybank giving these children both an opportunity to play at home but also a chance to receive something that is solely theirs.
Nothing was more evident to me on Saturday than the fact that Toybank truly is a volunteer driven organisation. With 90 volunteers in attendance from individuals to representatives from corporate companies it was clear that many people are recognising the importance of what Toybank does. I was in awe at all of the volunteers and how much energy they brought and maintained throughout the day to ensure that these children had a truly happy and memorable experience. Not only did the event give these volunteers a chance to play with the children and help create unforgettable moments but I hope it will also spread awareness for Toybank and their amazing cause by encouraging others to volunteer or help in some way.
My designated role for the day was photographer, with the aim of capturing the carefree smiles and pure enjoyment that lit up the children’s faces. Being the only ‘foreigner’ at the event, it proved a little tricky at times to blend in whilst taking the photos as the children being all too eager to pose and smile for the camera, which made those candid shots somewhat tricky to capture. Thankfully, there was a professional photographer on hand to document the day’s amazing moments and eventually as the day progressed and the students became used to me it became easier to blend in and take some action shots myself.
From the volunteer briefing session that kicked off the morning, to a puppet show, a clown and a whole host of interactive activities, it truly was an unforgettable day.  Praveen the clowns rounds of the classrooms elicited more smiles and screams from the children than I thought was humanly possible.
One moment I found particularly eye-opening took place whilst I was talking to members of the Toybank team after the event. One volunteer was discussing how they had nearly given a toy to a child who didn’t attend the school but was waiting outside the classroom but was stopped by a Toybank team member. Initially this may seem harsh,  but the reason why amazed me. If a volunteer or team member was to distribute a present to a child who didn’t attend the school then all the children from the surrounding area would come and expect a present. Then when Toybank didn’t have enough toys to distribute some children would be left with nothing, feeling less special. By distributing in schools and the news of the event spreading to other children in the local area, what it actually does is encourage enrolment and attendance at school, which in turn benefits these children’s lives in so many more ways than just giving them a toy. This just shows to me the impact Toybank has on so many children’s lives in more ways than one.
I have never been more aware of quite how lucky and privileged I have been in my life than I was on Saturday and for me the day was an incredible and unforgettable experience that I am forever grateful to have been a part of.  It is a day I will remember and treasure for the rest of my life and I hope that the children who experienced it will too.
- Lucy Wray, UK Toybank Intern




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