It all started with a question that my parents had when I was a child – what should they do with the toys I did not want anymore?” Her parents taught her to give it to someone who couldn’t afford toys. “The act remained in my heart since then. The smile on that neighborhood kid’s face left me overwhelmed when I was 7. Then one day, my dad shared his vision to multiply the same smiles by distributing toys to under-privileged children and eventually ‘Toy Bank’ was born. The idea fascinated me and an unsaid commitment bound me to this project. My friends and I have been working part time to recycle smiles by recycling toys ever since. I started working for the toy bank when I was 18.
Vidyun Goel, now 28, manages the operations for Toy Bank, despite a full time job.
Upholding their mission statement, “recycle toys – recycle smiles”, Toy Bank endeavors to bridge this gap by bringing a toy closer to a child. What’s different is that they try and send the toys according to the intellectual and emotional capacity of the child.
It’s not just about entertainment. When it comes to toys, they help in broadening a child’s horizons both analytically and intellectually. They help in fostering mental, emotional and social development of children and help them grow into confident and better individuals.
With over a decade of operations, Vidyun tells us how she has seen toys impacting all spheres of development of children.
“Development of motor skills – Physical and gross motor skills are developed as children learn to reach, grasp, crawl, run, climb and balance. Fine motor skills are developed as children handle small toys. Dexterity develops as the child holds toys or other items.
Development of cognitive thinking – Problem solving (cause and effect) through play. Enhancement of memory skills and increase in the attention span.
Emotional well-being – Through play a child can accomplish his/her wishes and can conquer fears and bad experiences. Playing helps the child master the environment and promotes awareness of their surroundings.
Development of social skills – Learning to share are important social skills children learn through educational toys. These skills include daily interaction skills such as sharing, taking turns, and allowing others to talk without interrupting.”
Collection from houses – There are 20 collection centres spread across Delhi, which are homes or offices of volunteers who have offered a small place in their premises as a collection centre.
Collection drive in schools and corporates: The Toys collected through schools follow a structured process. A coordinator from Toy Bank gives a list of the toys that are required. An in charge from school, in turn ensures collection according to the list.
Recycling and distribution
Each toy is checked for any sort of damage and is fixed, if required. When a toy is ready and complete in all aspects, it is cleaned and repackaged. The toys are either given to a child or are kept in a toy library so that kids can borrow, play and rotate toys among themselves.
Distribution was initially a challenge. They started out with donating toys in slums, orphanages and shelters in Delhi. But they felt the need to reach out to the rural areas of India where resources are even less. Vidyun elucidates, “Our challenge was the last mile connectivity as we did not have volunteers present outside Delhi. We overcame our challenge by tying up with grass root level organization across India like Teach for India, Samaj Pragati Sahvog, Swabalmbam, LV Prasad eye institute( eye surgeries are carried out for children) etc.” They send toys from Delhi through Indian Railways to the nearest railway station, and their partner organisation takes it from there.
A few surprising facts
It doesn’t always take huge capital or team to make an impact and Toy Bank is proof. They haven’t raised funds till now nor do they have any permanent employees. Volunteers range from school students, to working professionals to house wives and school teachers. They impact the lives of 48000 kids each year!
“Our biggest challenge right now is to set up logistics network to collect toys from all across India.” They plan to overcome this by partnering with delivering & logistical agencies for sending the toys back to Delhi, their mother centre, where they can be sorted, recycled and re-packed for distribution. Toy Bank also wants to setup a decentralized model with collection and sorting centres in major cities and metros.
Pursuing their dream to distribute across India has not been easy. Expansion is directly proportional to the cost of transportation. They’re toying with the idea of raising money through crowd funding.
There was a time when we started questioning our work, whether it is making any impact? But every day we receive calls from partner organizations thanking us for frictionless delivery of toys, the learnings children get from the toys, and for keeping kids more involved in the classes/ anganwadis and in turn help in increasing their attendance. The joy we hear in their voices, and the joys and smiles shared by kids during a distribution drive is heartwarming every single day. It’s what’s keep us going despite various challenges we face. Our dream is that each child gets access to the right to play, learn, and grow with a toy.