ToyBank Is Using Toys To Educate Underprivileged Children’s
After 15 years of volunteering with an NGO working with children, Mumbai resident Shweta Chari realized that a lot of emphasis was given on studying regular subjects. Though subjects are important, playing was an aspect that was missing from their lives. They lacked the fun part of life.
This was the triggering thought that led to the genesis of Toybank. Shweta began a movement with her friends who were very supportive of this cause, but after the first distribution on Children’s day, Shweta realized that it can no longer be an ad-hoc or one-off movement.
Began in 2004, Toybank was a social project for Shweta as she had to take up another job in order to give wings to her thoughts. Even though this proved exhausting and hectic, Toybank grew exponentially and by 2008 had expanded into three cities with plans to further expand into the fourth one. It was then that ToyBank was registered as a charity in 2010. ToyBank grew from Shweta’s dream into an actual charity followed by hiring her first few employees by 2011.
ToyBank sets up game libraries in collaboration with other NGOs that work with children. Presently, it has 288 centers in Maharashtra and caters to 40,000 kids every week. These centers include community-based NGOs, shelter homes, government schools, centers for children that come from extremely underprivileged backgrounds. ToyBanks are safe places that are equipped with beautiful board games and toys. These help to stimulate the children’s minds and impart them educational values and teach life skills.
The main ethos followed by Toy Bank is: It is easier to build children than repair broken men– Fredrick Douglas.
The foundation believes that it can bring about powerful behavioral changes in children that will eventually reflect in society. They distribute toys to children that have an emotional value such as soft toys that becomes the child’s companion at home. Morally correct games are also distributed therefore no barbie dolls, swords, guns or games that promote violence are given out. toys are recycled, segregated and sorted and then distributed.
The organization has now made its presence felt even in Bhutan. They conduct a play workshop to train teachers to use play as means to reach out to kids – Board games to teach kids math, science, English, value education. “Scrap Magic” wherein scrap material is used to make toys and play material.
Toybank has a deeply rooted meaning in context to the current world situation especially for children that are war victims that lose out on childhood at an early age, violent war zoned countries- play becomes a powerful medium for them. In India, play is a western concept, unfortunately, Toybank has succeeded in bringing play to the frontier of a child’s development, irrespective of their upbringing and background. Toybank works relentlessly to create awareness on the importance and relevance of play in elite schools, corporate offices, colleges, campaigns and agencies to conduct sensitisation workshops to explain the concept of play before becoming directly involved with the organization.
Even though it has been twelve years since its inception, the social cause space is challenging in many ways and Shweta has learned and unlearned a lot. She says she has become a very different person as compared to when she first started this organization. “I believe that qualities such as passion, love and doing the right things for the right reasons go a long way in this space. Willing to do the right thing is very important. I appeal to people to contribute their time, money and most importantly in terms of toys and games.”
This foundation runs on the help of volunteers and donations. It costs 250/- per child to run a library on a yearly basis.