Walking across the streets of Mumbai one could easily find the LAFF Vans at the Fort, Rhythm House or the yellow gate. Street kids patiently waiting for their turn to sit in the van. More often than not one would be pleased to see children playing at Children Toy Foundation. Be it games, puzzles, drawings they enjoy their time in companions especially with Devendra Desai. They call him Khilonewala Uncle and he smiles for them..
Established in 1982, by Devendra Desai, Children Toy Foundation is a registered charitable trust with the objective of inculcating a genuine love for toys and games among children in particular. Desai believes that no child should be denied the right of playing for apart from entertaining, toys and games can also induce fresh ideas, stimulate creativity and spontaneity.
Desai says that, “ Toys and games encourages free flow of thought, improves the power of observation and concentration. Games also teach values like discipline, honesty, truth, courage and so on. Why should anyone stop them.”
Desai an avid chess and board game player set up the Children Toy Library way back in 1984 in Mumbai. At the toy library any one can borrow toys and have fun.
Desai is of the view that Play, healthy recreation and consequently socialisation is prerogative for a child’s emotional, intellectual and social development and we should nurture our young ones especially the lesser-privileged children.
CTF is instrumental in helping and guiding to setup 298 toy/game libraries covering 11 states and 2 territories. The foundation has provided know-how and guidance for setting up similar libraries in countries like Bangladesh, Middle East and South Africa. It helps them to make a budget, select toys according to the budget and then offer guidance on administration of games and libraries.
Toy Libraries have been started at orphanages, schools, crèches, industrial and business establishments, mentally retarded institutions, physically handicapped institutions, Homes for the Aged, worker colonies and even in jails. Many of the Youth associations and women organizations have approached CTF for guidance.
CTF also conducts ‘On the Spot Game Contests’ at inter school level. “We develop indigenous games, which are made available to toy libraries,” stated Desai.
Apart from setting up toy/game libraries CTF has two play centers called ‘Khelvigyan’ static projects at Mumbai and Baroda
It also has 4 mobile play vans called as LAFF vans (Let’s All have Fun Frolic). These vans are plying in Mumbai and Allahabad covering 32 municipal schools and 20 village schools helping to propagate the toy library project.
The LAFF van helped CTF by giving access to many donors who were inspired to set up toy libraries at different places.
The colorful vans easily lure the imagination the children .on the body if the van there are many games painted and more than hundred children can play with magnetic counters in groups. The Van has lots of toys and games both educational and entertaining. The specially designed group game on the van is an open invitation for number of children to come together. The van has an in built video system for viewing educational video films and also for playing video games. Occasionally puppet and magic shows are performed to engage and entertain children. The van has stacked around 300 toys and other games along with specially designed hobby kits of stamps, coins, cards etc .
The van also has an attached health unit, with a doctor. The van goes to children homes, hospitals, Muncipal schools & slums. It has already covered 62 villages in Maharashtra. The Van has also completed its first phase of toy/game library promotion tour programme successfully covering 10 states of Northern India.
Most of these Vans visit hospital’s pediatric wards to amuse children with stories, puppets, toys and games. During vacations or when schools are closed, CTF organizes summer camps. It also conducts inter school, inter corporate, inter college Mind and Fun games contest namely Beyond Games and Play for Peace.
CTF also educates children of nearby slums children at a nursery in English medium at Matunga. CTF have set up a toy library and a game library in Petlad, a town in Valsad Gujarat.
Children Toy Foundation ‘s efforts are acknowledged in Limca Book Of Records.
Keeping up the pace Desai is working on a new project called Game of36: Connect India wherein he plans to donate 36 mobile Toy vans across country in 36 states and territories involving 36 corporate which could be inaugurated by 35 CMS. The one at Delhi is proposed (likely) to be inaugurated by the Prime Minister.
Desai, who has served the International Toy Library Association was also awarded for his innovative concept of “Children’s Olympics” (World Play Summit) at the International conference at Melbourne in 1993. Following the UNO’s Article 31he has helped many street kids to develop themselves. However Desai feels that our society needs to understand the fact, playing helps and no child should be deprived of Toys..