If you were in a school for underprivileged children in Banani on the 20th of May, you could see lots of smiling flowers holding a toy in their hand. Yes, on that day at Vivid School, a school for underprivileged children in Korail slum, Banani passed the day with joyful mirth. Samia Sultana Lira writes the collective effort behind this joyful faces?

Toys-R-Yours, an initiative taken by a group of former cadet college students started their journey on the national children day in 2015. The idea first came to the mind of an ex-cadet, Mostafa Jamal. He used to donate the used toys of his son to the driver with a child. Then one day the idea crossed his mind, why don’t I do this in an organised way?

IMG_3807Ex-Cadets Forum is an alumni Association of the former students of all Cadet Colleges of Bangladesh. It is renowned nationally and internationally for their performance and achievements. Jamal raised the issue and many supported his idea. He was not alone; there were others with an empathetic heart. They chose the National Children’s Day to launch their initiative and in the very first year they’ve earned smile of 2,500 little faces.

Why toys? In answer to this question the co-ordinator of Toys-R-Yours, Ferdous Rahman says, we target on mental development of underprivileged children. Children in well-to-do families are nurtured by parents or close relatives. But how can a child of a working class family get this, when mother has gone to work before the child wakes up? His point is, there are several organizations for underprivileged children, but they target only on external development like, education or food. Toys-R-Yours cares about their smile, their mental satisfaction. You can’t deny the positive effect of mental support when you find out attendance rate in school has been doubled after toy distribution. Poverty Fighter Foundation School, a school for children of working class mothers is a clear evidence of this. Who would know toys have such a hidden power!

IMG_3818Toys-R-Yours collects toys not only from personal level but also from corporate houses like Grameenphone, Banglalink, and Youth Bangla. There are organisations such as IPDC, Alpenlibe that deserve gratitude for being a part of this noble cause. Their contribution is worth mentioning. Their main team comprises of 39 members along with more than 60 volunteers. And ex-cadet forum is always by them with 11,000 ex-cadet members. Recently they’ve called for recruitment of volunteers for non-cadets also.

Some media personalities have also supported that initiative including Ayub Bacchu, Samina Chowdhury, Tahsan and Shironamhin. You don’t need to buy new toys for them, they accept used ones too. From my childhood experience, I know, toys are like best friends and I would love my toys whole heartedly. So, donating your used toy to a little soul is like transmission of love from soul to soul. You experience the best feeling of sharing when you share it with other loved ones! Or if you choose to buy new ones, feel free to donate.

There are 22 collection booths in the country and outside the country. There is a booth in Australia. People are too enthusiastic about donation. Even when I was having a discussion with the head of operation, Shubhasish Roy Shuvo, he paused to receive a call from someone wishing to donate toys.

Toys-R-Yours has reached remote corner of the country with their toys. They distributed toys to 1500 children from Lemuchari Shantipur Primary School, Khagrachari.

In their organising effort, they try to be inclusive and include autistic and special children in their donation programmes. They have also worked with children in the hospital and celebrate their Eid day with sick and ailing children.

To publicise the program, they have a theme song written by Rahat Ara Kabir Kheya and composed by Miftah Zaman that is call to make children smile. They have also made a short-film ‘Rataner golpo’ (Ratan’s story) to visually communicate their objective and motive.

In 2015, they came in touch with 17 schools, 2 hospitals and one orphanage for toys distribution. In 2016, they fulfilled their target of 10,000 smiles. This year, they target for 30,000 children. Spectacular journey, I would say. Maybe happiness of children is a strong influence for them to move forward and dream bigger.

Every year they start distributing toys on the National Children Day and they continue till the International Children Day. This is their annual routine. They’ve widened their path to fulfil their goal by adding one more thing — books. When co-ordinator was asked about its significance, he expressed his aspiration to see ‘Thakurmar jhuli’ (Grandmother’s satchel) in the hand of underprivileged children. They’ve already established a library in Vivid School with 300 books from donation.

With the intention to nurture creativity, they organised an art competition lately. Maybe one day there will be a ‘Picasso’ growing up from this group of children. Along with targeting for 30,000 smiles, they intend to take the initiative to a transform their current online based activities to a formal organisation.

When I was talking to Shuvasish, he said the best thing about being with Toys-R-Yours is to see the smiling faces of the happiest kids in the world. One of most memorable incidents in his volunteering experience was when he saw a kid running with toy wings in his back as if he’s flying like a bird!

Go ahead Toys-R-Yours. Let children to spread their wing of imagination with books and toys and have a colourful childhood.


Samia Sultana Lira is a student of University of Dhaka.


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