All of us have grown up with all our favourite toys. Be it a Barbie or a fancy electric car that zooms at the click of a remote button, for the child in us, those were the things that made up our worlds. While this may be the reality for a lot of us, for a sizeable number of India’s child population, this is far from their reality.
However, a 17-year-old high-schooler from Kolkata has rightfully become a beacon of hope for thousands of children across the country by bringing smiles to their faces. Aryamaan Lakhotia is just like any other 17-year-old, an unassuming teenager who is busy preparing for his upcoming board exams. But, not every winner is a proud owner of the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar.
How did Toy Joy start?
Through his organisation, Toy Joy, the 17-year-old along with his teenage cousins have been collecting and distributing thousands of toys, books and clothes to underprivileged children. Talking to The Logical Indian he said, “I was 14 at the time when I started this initiative along with my sister and a few other cousins. I was in Jaipur at my cousin’s birthday celebration and she had received a lot of toys which all of us already had. It was my grandmother who made us realise the importance of giving away to people and hence, all of us came up with this idea.” However, Lakhotia is immensely grateful to his grandmother Asha Lakhotia who had first planted the seed of social work and good-deed among all the siblings.
This mostly student-led organisation operates in seven cities across the country and are planning on expanding to two other. Harnessing the power of social media, the group expanded their operations to other cities where they cannot be present physically. He said, “We used social media to put our cause forward and a large number of people responded positively.” Further explaining the process, he said that people, who are keen on donating can contact Toy Joy and then a franchise volunteer from their respective city would contact the donors. “We try to clean some of the things that are donated and then send to either NGOs or directly distribute them among children,” he said. Apart from bringing smiles to children, the group has also started extending similar services to adults as well. Till now, Lakhotia says that the organisation has been able to impact over 15,000 children.
Winning the President’s award
The Government of India recognized his contributions and has recently awarded him with the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar in the field of social science which was handed over to him by the President himself. He said, “I had registered my organisation online for the award, not knowing what would happen.”
His school, St. James’ has also been immensely supportive in his initiative. Talking about how he learnt to balance social work and studies he said, “It used to be difficult when I started it in Class 10, but now, I have learnt to deal with it and balance it as well.” Lakhotia now has plans to register the organisation as soon as he becomes a legal adult in November of 2019.
The Logical Indian salutes the teens and their efforts in bringing back the smiles of thousands of children who might not have been able to enjoy the perks of playing with toys.