Kerala flood relief has a made-in Mumbai toy story

Ruth, Sree Lakshmi and Kesu with their new toys gifted by Mazagon Dock officials at an anganwadi in Niranam panchayat in Pathanamthitta.  

Along with roads, bridges, and houses, there was another set of ‘assets’ that the Kerala floods swept away: toys in the State’s anganwadis. But toys, however, are not part of the materials being distributed in official rehabilitation efforts. So a group of officers from Mumbai’s Mazagon Dock, a public sector shipyard, has been collecting toys for the flood-hit anganwadis.

Thanks to their goodwill, at least 100 anganwadis in Alappuzha and Pathanamthitta districts that had lost their play equipment to the flood waters are set to receive fresh sets of toys and games. “These institutions have lost everything in the floods. We are trying to put the smile back on the faces of at least a few of these children,” said Ramesh Babu, a former naval Captain who is a general manager at the shipyard.

As soon as the floodwaters receded, Mr. Babu, a native of Thiruvalla, along with a team of seven executives, began the cleaning of public premises, schools, anganwadis and public health centres with the support of the National Service Scheme (NSS) volunteers from Mar Thoma College and cadets of the 15 Kerala NCC Battalion.

“We started on August 25. We mobilised six tonnes of relief material, and cleaned 35 anganwadis, over a dozen schools, and three hospitals. We also issued a good quantity of cleaning material to Venmani and Kavalam panchayats in Alappuzha district. When we went to clean the anganwadis, we realised that they had lost everything, including provisions and playthings. We have replenished the stores of some anganwadis, but toys are not part of the rehab material provided by anyone. That’s why we launched this campaign,” Mr. Babu said.

Mr. Babu’s team sought the support of the Army’s Pune Sub Area, the Army School at Ooty, and Toybank, an NGO. “The Pune Sub Area is learnt to have collected and dispatched a consignment of about 5,000 toys, which is expected to reach us in a day or two. The employees of Mazagon Dock are also collecting toys for the mission,” he said.

Heeding the call for help, Toybank set up donation boxes at Healthspring diagnostic centres across Mumbai. “We intend to send about 1,500 toys by Thursday,” said Shweta Chari, founding chief executive of Toybank.

Sheeja L., child development project officer of Veliyanad block, which has 105 anganwadis under it, said the floods happened just a day after the stores had been replenished. “We had no time to move anything. Now at least the kids will get some useful toys,” she said.

Sreekumari V.K., teacher of the anganwadi in the sixth ward of the Niranam panchayat in Pathanamthitta district, sounded emotional on the phone when asked about the promise of toys. “They cleaned our premises, from where all play equipment and stores had been swept away. We are happy that all 15 of our children will get fresh toys now.”

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Printable version | Sep 16, 2021 4:09:04 PM |

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