Indian engineer Shweta Chari shared her experiences starting Toybank for the 1,000 Stories Campaign.
Despite an electrical engineering degree, money was never Shweta Chari’s goal. Instead she had an idea of creating a place where India’s children – many forced to be laborers at an early age – could do something many of us took for granted as children. Play with toys.
At the age of 21 she started Toybank, which provides toys and a place to play to children whose families cannot afford to do so. Since starting her organization in 2004 she has given thousands of kids in several Indian cities a chance to play, laugh and learn.
Reason for starting
[pullquote]The single most important thing that I sincerely followed and still do is believe in my instinct.[/pullquote]
I started my journey at the age of 21. With a background in engineering, I simply decided to go on a roll with my life! Money was not my real goal. I knew that somehow with good efforts and reasonable thinking I would make more than enough to sustain my needs. So far, this has worked for me. The single most important thing that I sincerely followed and still do is believe in my instinct. In India, due to the large population, there are many children that live invisible lives. They go completely unnoticed by society; whether they live or die, it hardly matters because there are so many of them. This cold attitude is what shook me as I grew up. I felt the need to do something for the kids I saw going on with their lives without a childhood. I believe I am one of those individuals that has come with a focus to work towards development of the world. There is a deep desire to bring about sustainable change.
Success is …
It is simple. Success is actually when we start ‘doing’. The sad part of our current world is that there is just ample scope for too much social work! That is an irony in itself. The moment we begin, everything else will fall in together. I believe that its easier ‘to do’ than to just talk about change. All through the years of Toybanking, I have witnessed how beautifully, goodness spreads and catches up with anyone and everyone that gets involved. That is success for me.
In India the concept of ‘Right to Play’ has been difficult to work around. The whole idea of Toybank was such a challenge to explain to people. Initially we traveled everywhere to sensitize people about the impact of play. In the many years of intense work Toybank is now being noticed by the society. Toybank’s work has spread far and wide across Urban and Rural India. We have impacted the lives of over 45,000 kids which includes kids from Bhutan as well! This organization got built on impact itself. It was not just a ‘cool’ idea that worked; instead it was the effect of our work that convinced us to go on, to work harder and thus have deeper and more permanent positive results in the lives of the kids we work with. For me the Right to Play stands for freedom and for happier growing memories. [pullquote]Toybank ensures that every child, irrespective of his/her social & financial background has the right to make the most of his/her childhood.[/pullquote]
In 2009 I took Toybank up as a full time assignment leaving aside my corporate work life. I felt the need to expand and reach out to many more children in India. With the help of outstanding volunteers and team members, Toybank started to intensely monitor the children that were impacted through the activities. We witnessed so much positive change. Our goal is to support and enable people to create programs and influence policies in the area of Right to Play. Toybank ensures that every child, irrespective of his/her social & financial background has the right to make the most of his/her childhood. Our current top challenge has been to bring about long-term sustainability within Toybank. So I focus much of my energies on fund- raising. We do not have grant or consistent funders to keep us going and so there is a constant need to fund-raise regularly.
Your role model
I have always admired Gandhi for being so relentless and brave in the way he brought about India’s freedom. I look up to this man for his belief in truth. This may seem cliché but I am baffled that a single man like him managed to get the whole nation to fight for a common cause through non-violence. Mahatma Gandhi has been quite an inspiration to me.
Caption: Video courtesey of Our Better World
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