Julien explains how a library full of toys also can foster a future for young philanthropists.
In April 2011, LUSH held an event that sponsored the creation of three Toy Libraries. These libraries are places where underprivileged children have the opportunity to borrow and play with donated new and second hand toys. Currently, LUSH has sponsored a Toy Library at ‘The Hub Saidek’, a youth community center in Bangkok, another library at a public school in Lamplaimat in the Buriram province, and one more that is in the process of being set up at the Buddha Kasettra School in the Mae Hong Son Province.
The concept was initially developed by the Mechai Viravaidya Foundation. Toy Libraries are set up mainly in villages and schools in different regions of Thailand. The full name is ‘The Village and School Toy Library’. It is a programme that has two key objectives: 1) to give access to toys to underprivileged children who don’t ordinarily have access to toys, and 2) to mainstream philanthropy.
Donation boxes are set up in partnership with different businesses, schools, hospitals, shopping centres or banks where adults and children alike can come and give away new or reasonably used toys or books. Toys are then sorted out so that each Toy Library has a certain percentage of dolls, educational games, board games, sports equipment, and so on. These toys are then brought to a village or a school. The children at each of these communities then have to elect their own Toy Library Committee. This committee, made up of children, is supervised under the adults, and is usually made up of about 8 children and includes notably a President and a Vice President. The children tend to be around ages 8-14, but there is no age limit at the Toy Library.
Under the supervision of adults, the children-led committee is responsible for setting up the rules and regulations of the library and these rules can address, for example, how long other children can borrow toys, in exchange for what, as well as what happens if they don’t wash or repair the toys or bring the toys back.
The Toy Libraries are usually setup in existing school libraries or in separate rooms in villages. The beneficiary children are asked to draw the Toy Library of their dreams, and to include features such as colorful walls and carpets, and these elements are taken into account when setting up the actual library.
Kids can borrow toys and take them home or play outside in exchange for undertaking community services. They can sometimes also play at school without taking toys home and without doing any services. Community services can include activities such as planting seedlings, collecting garbage, cleaning up the village and helping the elderly or fellow students. An adult then signs a log book, which the children receive when they join the library, and the children present the log book at the library in exchange of obtaining the right for borrowing a toy for a certain period of time.
Some people think making kids do community service is unfair because they are underprivileged and don’t have access to toys. The point; however, is to mainstream philanthropy. This gives the opportunity to children to learn the joy of doing public good. The Toy Library programme aims at creating a new generation of philanthropists, a new generation of young citizens who care about others. The Toy Library is instrumental in making children understand that everyone borrows from the same planet and is part of the same society. Ultimately, the leading motto is: the more you give, the more you get.
But borrowing toys does not always require an exchange of community service. Other requirements include self-enrichment and education whereby, in exchange for toys, children must read a book, learn English vocabulary, and so forth. Toy Libraries can be further used as an entry point to other forms of development. For example, in Burmese communities, toys can be incentive for the children, who are bilingual in Thai and Burmese, to speak to their parents about immigration, drugs, the police and HIV, information that they need to know but can’t learn directly from school teachers or Thai village community members because of the language barrier.
Dolls and stuffed animals account for the highest percentage of toys donated. Interestingly, and for a reason that has not yet clearly been identified, nor well researched, a large number of these are stuffed representations of Doraemon, the famous robot cat (or cat robot) from the future that was born in a Japanese comic. Thai children like Doraemon, yet the most problematic aspect of the Toy Library is that the programme does not have enough educational and intellectual games. There are also not enough board games and construction toys like Lego. Very often, some toys need to be purchased, which corresponds to additional costs for the programme. Sports equipment is also needed, as usually rural public schools will have a sports field, but limited equipment to play on it.
In the past two years, Toy Library has collected 110,000 toys for distribution to a total of 120 of the libraries in Thailand, it is constantly increasing. The success of the Toy Library is notably linked to the fact that it is a very simple starting point for children, adults and corporations to embrace philanthropy; the programme’s model is very easy to understand and implement.
For more information about the Toy Library: http://villagetoylibrary.org/
For more information about LUSH: www.facebook.com/lushparty
LUSH opened a Toy Library on the 22nd of January 2012 in a public school in the Buriram province, and provided musical activities and entertainment during the opening ceremony.
30/01/2012 - 12:58