In our previous newsletter we showed you pictures and a video of the children of Randiya and the weekly food distribution we conduct in that village. For the new year we thought it would be nice to give these children a small gift that they could really relate to, something that would allow them to just be children for a day.
As most of you know, due to poverty, the children in this village have to start working from a very young age, sometimes at just 6 or 7 years old. They go to the rice fields daily and do manual labor in the hot sun, when most children should be going to school or spending their time playing games. It is very sad to see that these children have lost their childhoods and are forced to “grow up” while still being young kids.
A few months ago while preparing the weekly food distribution in Randiya we saw several children sitting and playing with some “toys”. I took a photo that day and have included it below so you could see exactly what I saw. It was a group of small children playing outside our Ashram in Randiya. They were waiting for our weekly food distribution to start, and they had brought their toys from home to play with as they waited.
Their toys really just consisted of some broken coconut shells and mud. And with these “toys” they quickly had a group of five or six children completely absorbed in cooking “food” in these “pots”. They were rolling out chapatis, cooking dahl, and so many other things with their imaginations. But all I could see were the broken coconut shells and some mud being mashed around. Some other children had made a “ball” out of crumpled up plastic bags. They wrapped some string around the crumpled plastic bag to keep it “round”, and used it to play cricket.
When I saw these children playing with so little I thought that we should try to get toys for all the children in the village, to let them be kids and have the fun they should be having. We all remember how happy we were as kids when we received a new toy. These children in Randiya have never even seen toys in their lives, so for them to receive a toy would mean so much more than we can imagine. Already these children are robbed of their childhoods by the time they are only 6 years old. So we wanted to give them something that would let them be kids again. At least for a short time let them play and enjoy like children.
Just after new years day we rented a truck and drove three hours away to Cuttack, where the wholesale toy market is, and filled the entire truck up with all varieties of toys. We planed to give out sets of toys so that each child would get 5 or 6 toys. Every child would get one main “big toy” and then two medium toys and three small toys. An entire set of six toys would cost just $2 each. We made two different sets, one for boys (which contained things like toy cars, a cricket bat, toy soldiers, etc.) and one for girls (which had baby dolls, jumping ropes, etc.).
We arrived at Randiya in the truck without warning and began spreading word for all the children in the village to gather at our ashram to receive a gift of toys. Many of the children were out working in the fields, so the crowd of children began small and increased as the day went on. By nightfall all of the children in the village had received toys. The children from the neighboring village also came running when they saw others playing with their new toys. We had purchased extra toys to be safe and had enough for those children as well, so no one went home unhappy.
When the children came forward to receive their toys, most of them were stunned. They had never seen toys in their life, what to speak of a huge mountain of toys. It was just too good to be true and many didn’t know how to react. Once they had the toys in their hands and went back to sit down they finally realized it was real. Then each began to smile and play with their new toys. It was a very nice sight to see so many children playing happily, especially when we are used to seeing them working in rice fields.
When you give a child food, you are helping him, but he won’t exactly understand the importance of it. But when you give a small child a beautiful toy to play with, you are actually giving him a childhood, and that is something he can immediately understand and appreciate. These are children, and they should be playing and doing the things that all children do. They shouldn’t be working in rice fields, or doing manual labor, or doing so many other things that they are forced to do out of poverty.
There is no perfect solution to the poverty of India. It is so vast and widespread that it is almost insurmountable. We cannot stop hunger and we cannot stop poverty in India. But at least we can try to help one child at a time to the best of our ability by giving them something that makes their life better. Let us give them some nourishing food and give them a nice toy so that they also can have a childhood like we did. This may not make any impact on the overall vast poverty in India, but it will make an impact in the life of that one child that we helped.
For every village that we go to help, there are a thousand other villages just next door that we can’t help. But rather than become hopeless at the vastness of the problem, we have to take inspiration from the face of the single child we helped today, and with that, get strength to help another child tomorrow.
Below you will find some pictures of the children of Randiya receiving their new toys.