Saturday, November 21, 2009

Grape Learns about Toybank

During Grape's stay with us, Grape has done quite a lot- witnessed the Bangalore Book Fair, attended a TED after-party at Bangalore, met Akshara Foundation's awesome library team and more. As Grape is a tiny little yak toy herself, she wondered if kids from lower income families had access to toys too. So, after seating Grape in a nice little shikara on Dal lake, I proceeded to share a story about an organization called Toybank!
If you asked the weatherman in Belur the weather forecast for 6th September, 2009, he would have told you that there was rain in store for this temple town. He wasn’t entirely wrong…. And here is why….

A slightly cold and wet day marked the day that the Bangalore chapter of Toybank was embarking on its first toy distribution drive in rural Karnataka. With a bunch of three enthusiastic and energetic teachers to greet the 9 of us, we couldn’t help but feel excited. As we drove down the narrow roads surrounded by lush greenery on each side, we learnt that nobody had ever visited this small little school in Siddarahalli before. As the bus got closer to the school, one could see kids running to school in their bright blue uniforms. Bright eyes, smiling eyes, inquisitive eyes, questioning eyes, shy eyes …all wondering who these nine new people were. After a quick round of discussions with the extremely enthusiastic and passionate bunch of teachers and with no time to waste, the event had begun...

Rows of children lined up according to their classes and the leader of the group )the boy who was voted as the chief minister of the school) gave them the ‘savadhan’ and ‘vishram’ commands. That moment seemed like the apt moment to unveil the new possession their school had received… the brand new shiny parade drum. The plastic was pulled off, the stand put in place and the stick to beat the drum was handed over to the student leader. His eyes shone with pride, while the other children eyed this drum. Encouraged by the teachers, he struck the drum once… BANG… some of the children shut their ears, some looked puzzled, some a little scared. He hit it a few more times…but the faces of the children still registered looks of bewilderment. The drum had no context currently. So, the teacher asked the leader to go about his regular routine of giving commands for exercises and after a few rounds of exercise, he asked the leader to give the commands through the drum beat. Ah ha! The drum now had been placed into a context. The bewildered faces now smiled when they connected the dots and realized what the drum was for. And this drum was now theirs!
But all work and no play makes jack a dull boy. And thus began the game sessions. With some explanation and some trial sessions, the games elicited many giggles and a lot of laughter. When the young ones were playing, the older ones still wanted to be part of it by being spectators. When the elders started to play, the younger ones demonstrated their vocal talents by singing as loud as they could and reciting all the nursery rhymes they knew. Games made up on the spur of the moment to cater to the energy that all of them had…Phew!

Then, mixed groups of children were formed and whisked away to different corners to be given a bright bunch of sketch pens and crayons to colour sheets with cartoon characters on them. Kids shared the common bunch of colours they had, bargained and booked for colours and even suggested colour combinations to each other. Multi-hued fishes, a mickey mouse with a blue tongue, a boy with a yellow leg and a green leg – old cartoon characters now had new avatars!

And then… ta daaaa… it was time for the goodies. After all who comes to school on a Sunday if there isn’t a good enough reason eh?

And there was reason enough…

Pencils, erasers, sharpeners, pens, scales and crayons found their way into the hands of these lovely children. But, wait.. what were those mysterious bags sitting in the middle of the school ground? Wrapped and hidden from their inquisitive eyes, they wondered what the bags contained. And then each approached the bag and picked out a mysterious package from it. When they finally got to open the package, what did they find? Toys!!! Each different from the other. Nobody had a toy just like theirs. And they each had a toy. Even the mentally challenged boy who came to their school occasionally had a bright red car. Even the cook who lovingly cooked a sumptuous meal for them every day had something to take back for her son.

So, you may be wondering what the weatherman had to do with any of this. He did mention some rain… and rain there was! A rain of gifts. He forgot to mention the flood of smiles and happiness that ensued after that though. And he certainly forgot to mention the rainbow that appears after the rain. A rainbow of hope and colour.. not only for the children, but also for the volunteers at the event.. of things to come.. of things to do… and things to happen!
Thus, Grape learnt about Toybank - a non-profit organization has been set up with the aim of providing toys to children and with a vision to work towards a world where all children have a happy and healthy childhood. Learn how you can donate toys or volunteer and take a look at the photos from the event too.

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