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)