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Toybank Fiesta 2019 – A mosaic of changemakers

As a new volunteer at Toybank, I didn’t know what to expect as I had never volunteered at an NGO before, not to mention that at the Volunteer Induction I walked into a gathering of people much older than me. However, when Shweta Chari – the founder of Toybank – very passionately explained the message of Development Through Play, I grew to understand that this was not a group of intimidating professionals but excited, fun-loving people who wanted to make a difference.

The Fiesta’s theme exemplified this – a mosaic representing diverse people from different backgrounds and identities coming together to be a part of a bigger cause.

This was an impression that remained constant throughout my volunteering journey. The organization works towards achieving early childhood mental well-being through Play. Their reach is truly inspiring: over 56,000* children from vulnerable communities across 12 districts of Maharashtra have the opportunity to experience a normal childhood because of this organization. This in turn influences a change in their personality and thinking as they grow older. Step by step, they are working towards building a better India, following their ethos, “It is easier to build strong children that fix broken men”, and I feel privileged to be part of the process.

Toybank’s Fiesta 2019 was a whirlwind of excitement and activity. Despite not having met any of the volunteers before, we transformed into a beautifully coordinated machine and it was a phenomenon to watch. Each member of the team became family – we were one unit ready to support each other, all with the ultimate goal of pulling off the event seamlessly.

The Fiesta’s theme exemplified this – a mosaic representing diverse people from different backgrounds and identities coming together to be a part of a bigger cause. Not only did this refer to the volunteers but also to the various performers and audiences who came to bring the Fiesta to life.

For those two days, the walls of the breathtaking ABACA furniture store enclosed a group of people enjoying music, food, and each other’s company, all the while spreading awareness about the importance of Conscious Play for mental well-being. Students from international schools across Mumbai showcased their talents to propagate this message as well. Ranging from 10 to 16 years old, these talented children put on an impressive performance – one that was unprecedented for their age and enjoyed by every individual present there.

At the Fiesta, we volunteers felt valued and part of a movement for change, no matter how small or significant our responsibilities were.

By Sunday evening as the last performers walked off the stage, we all gathered to take a group picture. Despite having known them for a mere two days I knew I would miss every individual who had been a part of this process. The Fiesta was one of my most memorable experiences and the manner in which I was welcomed into the Toybank team is something I will always value greatly. All in all, it was a wonderful experience and I look forward to doing my part towards building stronger children so that we may have a future where there are no broken men and women.

*Data collected as of November 30, 2019

(Written by Keya Kilachanda, Grade 11 student from Cathedral and John Connon School, who has been volunteering with Toybank since a year)


The fun-tastic fiesta

It was a novel experience, filled with light, laughter and learning.

– A Toybank volunteer

All of us, working professionals would perhaps admit to missing our childhood, school and college days. There are multiple reasons for this – but I’m sure it all boils down to the ‘FUN’ element that was predominant in almost every aspect, every activity of those formative years.

I am grateful to Toybank, for taking me back in time and experience the fun and excitement on 24th and 25th of November at their power-packed Fiesta. The venue was lovely, the arrangements – exquisite and the event- let’s just say it was the most fun I’d had in a long, long time.

Day 1 was a charmer. Luke Kenny, the kind and funny human that he is, welcomed the guests and kick-started the event. I was surprised to see young school bands, Amplitude and Poptastic Rockers, singing rock, indie and pop songs for the opening act. They truly rocked the arena with their music and energy. It was a delight to see the kids grooving to music from the 90’s; I stood there, swaying, reliving my childhood through their performance.

The electrifying music performances were followed by a thought provoking conversation between actor Parvin Dabas and filmmaker/activist Nandita Das. They spoke about the role of play in a child’s life, and Das being a mother herself, had some really insightful thoughts to share.

The closing act for the evening was none other than Elvis Presley himself! Siddharth Meghani, India’s only
Elvis Presley impersonator got us all foot-tapping and rock n’ rolling with his melodious Elvis-y voice.

The next day was a spectacle! It began with 2 high school bands, No Feedback and The Sunday Evening Collective playing the blues and some other 90’s hits, and moved on to the long awaited conversation about childhood resilience that was moderated by award-winning author Meghna Pant, with NBA India’s Director Scott Fleming and actor/activist Rahul Bose. Their discussion on the impact of play led to a good understanding of the roles of gender that children are exposed to at an early age. The speakers spoke of equal opportunity, the importance of games and, the seriousness of living a fun childhood.

There was also a Toybank pop – up bazaar on both the days which displayed an array of products one could purchase to support the organisation. These products ranging from mugs, bags, notepads, postcards, accessories, diaries, etc. were creative, spunky and the audience could not get enough of it.

Founder and CEO Shweta Chari, giggled on stage as she expressed her gratitude as well as invited the guests
to join in on Toybank’s mission- to create a safe, playful childhood for all kids, and help them grow and learn
through the medium of fun and play. Toybank’s work is truly inspiring and impactful.

The final act, by Luke Kenny and Band got all of ABACA and its guests onto their feet, singing, sweating and
shouting, “Rock On!”

The event was definitely the best way for me to spend my weekend (Special shout-out to the hospitality and
food partners for their mouth watering food). It was a novel experience, filled with light, laughter and learning.

I look forward to volunteering with Toybank and lending my help to Toybank’s cause in whatever way I can.