Over 26 years, his foundation has helped set up 272 toy libraries, including one in the Andaman & Nicobar islands. It currently runs two toy libraries and four toy vans (three in Mumbai and one in Allahabad) that visit government schools, children’s wards in hospitals, construction sites and homes for special and marginalised children. Children are encouraged to indulge in board games, craft, puppet shows, storytelling, drama and a varied set of outdoor games. “If we are 15 minutes late, the kids ask us to stay on for 15 minutes more,” says Utkarsha Manayar, a trained CTF teacher, recounting her visits to KEM Hospital, Mumbai. For Desai, games are a medium of creating emotional and intellectual growth. “Initially everyone cheats,” he says. “But then you become honest, patient and develop sportsmanship.”
The Toy Library in Matunga started in a municipal school nine years ago. Today, included in the timetable for students from the 1st to 7th standard is a one-hour toy library class. On an otherwise dreary Monday morning, kids from a 5th standard Marathi medium class enter the library and get down to the serious business of playing. They have already organised their groups based on what they’d like to do from the rows of bright toys, storybooks in Hindi, English, Marathi and Gujarati, a mind-boggling array of games, and even computers. Most can’t afford tuitions and have working or illiterate parents. The toy library class is as close to personalised attention as many kids get. And staff members too. Vandana Sonawane, coordinator, CTF, has worked here for nine years. “As a child,” she says, “I couldn’t even imagine such a range of games. At least I got to play them in adulthood.”
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Image Source: Great Beyond