Toys empower children to expand their imagination and create a world that reflects their most authentic self. This safe, fun, and unbiased environment enables healthy mental and physical well-being, and has significant therapeutic and rehabilitative benefits for children. Perhaps this is why children’s right to play forms such a fundamental element of the UN Convention on human rights.
“Vidyun’s passion and enthusiasm were infectious, and I was so taken by her vision of creating a support system that enables the underprivileged children across the country to have access to their Right to Play. It was a unique and refreshing concept, perhaps as important as food and shelter.”
The global toy market is worth approximately $95 billion. In India, this market is worth over $1.2 billion and yet as many as 1 in 4 children do not have access to toys or story books. From Hornby train sets and Lego bricks to various boardgames, puzzles and colouring sets, whilst many of us take this element for granted, it is so disheartening to know that there are so many children out there for whom even the most basic toys remain a distant dream.
Rather than focusing on single donations and direct distribution – a model usually adopted by most non -profit organisations, The Toy Bank focuses on creating toy libraries that can be shared with schools and communities with a winder and far more long-term impact.
If you are touched by this unique initiative and wish to learn more or get involved, we would highly recommend visiting one of the toy libraries in Delhi during your holiday or safari to India. This can be easily combined with an interesting walking tour of Old Delhi taking you through its narrow streets and bustling markets, allowing you an unparalleled opportunity to discover Delhi’s local life that is often overlooked by visitors.
Since its foundation more than 15 years ago, Vidyun and her formidable team have successfully created 5,355 toy libraries impacting over 500,000 children. One of the achievements that Vidyun is particularly proud of is that The Toy Bank’s efforts have benefited marginalised children in all corners of India, which is an incredible feat!
The organisation has always strived to create fully inclusive and gender-neutral spaces and have also created toy libraries that can help differently abled children including those affected by autism, cerebral palsy, and partially or fully visually challenged.
The toy libraries are created with used and unused toys that are usually gathered through collection drives in New Delhi and a few other large cities across the country. These toys are then refurbished if necessary and re-packaged into age-appropriate toy kits, which are then sent across the country to government schools, shelter homes, orphanages and independent educational centres.
Just like the libraries for books, these toy libraries are replenished and updated as and when required, and they serve as an invaluable space for often forgotten children to develop social, cognitive, physical and emotional skills. In many cases, this initiative has improved attendance in government schools and helped vulnerable children cope with mental health issues. So far, over 1.5 million toys have been recycled by The Toy Bank saving about 386,500 pounds of carbon emissions.
The Covid-19 pandemic has dealt a devastating blow to urban as well as rural communities across India, and vulnerable children have been particularly affected due to the closure of their schools during the lockdown. The Toy Bank has come up with a special “Reach and Teach Program” offering activity-based learning kits and toys as well as e-learning classes.
These are currently being offered to all the students enrolled in the local government schools across Delhi increasing children’s accessibility to toys, board games, DIY activity kits, storybooks, basic stationery items and other aids required to enable them to continue their learning at home.
The focus of this initiative is to strengthen the children’s existing knowledge in language, numeracy, environmental awareness and life skills as per their present and former grade. Following the distribution of educational aids and implementation of e-classes, they have observed a 35% increase in the online attendance of the children. The initiative also focuses on promoting emotional stability during the lockdown and creating equal opportunities.
In partnership with government-run schools in Delhi, The Toy Bank’s team have been creating daily e-learning worksheets and supporting videos for students of grades 1 to 5. This is a critical aspect as most of the parents in the underprivileged communities are incapable of supporting their children in online education.
Furthermore, these online sessions have been extended to phones and other electronic devices to ensure that no child is left behind. Many of the students are now attending online sessions on WhatsApp using their parents’ mobile phone, as that is often the only electronic device in their household. It is a herculean task, but Vidyun’s team has so far managed to deliver and they are now in the process of expanding this initiative to cover other areas across the country.
Perhaps these words from a 12-year-old girl from a remote tribal village in Jharkhand in eastern India succinctly capture the essence of The Toy Bank’s projects: “I have been playing with the board games because these toys have made me feel that I am not the deprived one. If I can have the toys which the rich city children have, then I can also achieve what they achieve in life. I am not born only to be trafficked or be a daily wage labourer.”
If you would like to learn more about supporting philanthropic initiatives in India that make a real positive impact on the lives of the under-privileged, please do get in touch. Or if you would just like to dream for now, you can explore our luxury Asia holidays for inspiration.