July 20, 2009 2:13:48 am
From this toybank,children receive gifts of fun and games,with some lifeskill lessons thrown in
While most NGOs working with kids provide them with books and formal or non-formal education,electronics engineer Shweta Chari thought they needed more than just that. Thats why,when she got fed up with her all-too-conventional life,Shweta started the Toybank with some of her friends when she was just out of college.
Distributing gift-wrapped toys to underprivileged kids was her way of giving a child his right to childhood. Shweta says,Toys are an important tool for a childs mental health and well being. Toybank conducts toy collection drives in various parts of Mumbai,the members then gift wrap the toys and conduct distribution sessions at NGOs,hospital wards and also children who live on the streets. The toys,once collected are recycled,repaired and cleaned before being gift wrapped. Shweta adds,Even the distribution centres are selected after a lot of ground work on the needs of the kids.
Speaking about the various activities at distribution sessions,Shweta says,We gift wrap the toys so that they value them. During distribution we also have story telling sessions,magic shows and hygiene lessons for them. Toybank has a chain of volunteers who help Shweta in conducting activities at least once a month through the year.
Toybank takes great care when it accepts toys as donations and picks only those toys that fulfil their norms because like other entertainment forms toys also have an impact on the psyche of the children. For instance Toybank does not take toys that promote violence,have sharp edges. Barbie dolls are also a strict no at Toybank. Justifying this Shweta says,Firstly we dont give gender specific toys and looking at Barbie dolls girls wish to look like them when they grow up,so this can have a negative effect on them.
Shweta says,People who donate are also sensitised by our volunteers and so now even they are careful about the toys they give. Apart from the toy raising,they also require funds,which come from a grant that they get from a UK-based organisation. Entering its fifth year,Toybank will never move away from its basic idea of giving the children the right to play but it plans to create modules to enable learning through play.
Toybank has today has expanded to Bangalore and Pune where it has been active for the past two and one year respectively,but Shwetas ultimate goal for Toybank remains that it must reach to the interiors of rural India and give every child his right to childhood through the medium of toys.
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