Volunteer Dalee Davis recounts Toybank’s 18th birthday…


I was restless on the morning of Saturday, 27th of August. It was Toybank’s 18th birthday and for me, my first physical volunteering opportunity. There was so much excitement for the day to unfurl - after having virtually volunteered for a few months at Toybank, this was my first ever physical event. I didn’t know what to expect, what to do, how to help and of course, how to have fun!

At the beginning

When I reached the venue, sitting in a mid-sized classroom of a BMC school complex in the Govandi area of Mumbai, I found myself feeling nostalgic. I squeezed myself to adjust and sit on the small wooden desks and tables and was curious about the day that was about to unpack. The briefing session from Toybank would soon put my anxiety to rest, I hoped. I was the first volunteer to reach the school and there I met Charu and a few other amazing folks from Toybank.

The notion of a briefing session sounded too rigid to me at first but on the contrary, it was so fun. We played games so we were pumped up to take the day head-on. I relived my childhood while we volunteers and the Toybank team members were playing so many games. That 15-minute session gave a lot of insight into what Toybank is aiming to achieve through the power of play and how it’s bringing a tremendous change in society, one play session at a time.

Play as a cause

One thing that resonated with me so well during the briefing was Toybank’s thrust on development through play. When I was growing up, learning and playing were treated as separate trails of life. Importance was given to formal learning, leaving us all wanting for more play and simultaneously feeling disassociated with the learning process. 

What Toybank aims is to join the two paths of learning and play. Many studies have proven that skills learned with a mix of games and activities tend to have a higher rate of engagement and execution. Toybank’s play programme aims to bridge this gap with innovation in education and help develop more empathetic and emotionally intelligent human beings for our society.

The other thing I learned during this volunteering opportunity was how my work was impacting change in society. I was playing a small role in achieving this vision and I got a birds-eye view of how I was fitting into the puzzle.

My day made special

We were given one agenda: “To play and have fun while you play!” We had an open ground and we could come up with an idea to play and engage with kids. At the end of each session, we were to distribute a play kit to each of these students. My first session started with students of sixth standard and I was really nervous about what games I could play to engage with them. I entered the class of 40 and all the children were very excited to see us. I was overwhelmed by the warm welcome. They shared with us what they aim to become and how they pursued their hobbies. We had a few engaging sessions on geography and then some on motor skills, the biggest highlight being dancing on a very famous hook step.

My second session was with children with disabilities. The class was big with no benches. There were just mats on the ground, a few games scattered and a handful of very excited faces. Never have I ever played football inside a classroom and had so much fun!  I was literally out of breath and our team did win after a long tiring 15 minutes of the game.

My third session was with fifth standard students. By this time, I had gained a little confidence and we started engaging with students more effortlessly. We met so many talented artists in a class of 40. Then we had a closing session and I met quite like-minded individuals who were so geared up with the vision of Toybank. I met volunteers who were associated with Toybank for more than 10 years and felt so inspired.

I am a Toybanker!

The event was very well planned. From photographers to toy distributors to our very own clown, played by a retired naval officer Pravin Tulpule, Toybank had it all covered. Kudos to each and every member of the Toybank family for making the birthday event full of joy and contentment. My first physical volunteering experience with Toybank will always be full of memories and nostalgia. The vision of Toybank is really strong and is core to many of us. As a child, haven’t we all felt that, “Please, thoda aur time khelne do”? Bringing innovation in learning through play and helping shape a better future for all of us is a much-needed step towards building a more empathetic society.


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