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Toys for the Children of Randiya

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[ From http://www.foodrelief.org/news/articles/83/1/ ]





Dear friends and devotees,


Jaya Sita Rama. Please accept my humble pranams.


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 planned 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, as well as a short video clip of the children playing amongst themselves.


Click here to watch video: http://www.foodrelief.org/news/articles/83/1/


Yours in service,


Jahnava Nitai Das,

Bhaktivedanta Ashram &

Bhaktivedanta International Charities







Children at Randiya playing with "toys" made out of broken coconut shells and mud.


































































































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Now those are some true Bhaktas right there. It really brings tears to my eyes to see soemthing so heart warming and thoughtful done for these children. A thousand blessings upon all of the devottes who helped buy and distribute the goods to these children here. I'm especially amazed by the caucasian devotee in the picture. I can recall him protesting over the fact that non-Indian and so-called "lower caste" Hindus couldn't enter the temple, now that's really someone you've got to respect.


Jai Shree Krishna!

Jai Shree Radha!

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Very humbling...these pictures just make you cry and give true heart flet blessing to those involved in making these kids happy. I had also seen the bhaktas cry for not being allowed into the jagannath temple. Bhai, you don't need a temple, the Lord resides in you and is making you the medium that brings smiles to these children.


Also whenevr you are doing such services try to keep us posted so that I may help as best possible!


Jai Shree Krishna

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I didn't want to say anything "negative" when this was first posted, but something has been nagging at me regarding this.


Just *why* is it so much better for kids to play with "proper" toys than it is for them to use what they can find along with their imagination?


Just *why* should kids be going to school and playing games rather than working?


My kids have a room that's *full* (to the point where it's hard to walk through sometimes) with toys from birthdays, Christmas, or just because Grandma saw something on sale. They hardly *ever* play with these toys. The most fun I've seen them have recently was playing with a couple of sticks in the woods or playing with seaweed and shells on the beach?


Why do we feel we need to shelter our children (as did the Gautama Buddha's parents) from the "realities" of this world? Isn't that just setting them up for a future crushing disappointment?

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Just *why* is it so much better for kids to play with "proper" toys than it is for them to use what they can find along with their imagination?

If you ever came here you would probably understand things better. But sitting in your place of luxury you will never understand. That isn't meant to insult you, but its just a fact.


In your mind you can convince yourself that a kid who is 6 years old and has to work in a rice field all day with no food is having good fun, and that when he gets home and fights with his brother over who gets to use the crumpled up plastic bag as a ball, its really a learning experience which we shouldn't interfere with. But if you ever come here, and you are always welcome, your world view will change in half a second.



Just *why* should kids be going to school and playing games rather than working?


Please send your six year old kid to work whole day in a rice field and then ask him his views on it. In fact, you couldn't last one day in a rice field, and neither could 90% of us here. Six year old children being forced to work daily in these rice fields doing manual labor while not being fed is criminal, and if you can't see that then I don't know how to educate you.


As far as why children should go to school instead of working in a rice field... Through education people in poverty have a chance to escape the poverty they were born into. Perhaps you aren't aware that a manual laborer remains a manual laborer his entire life. There is no corporate ladder he can climb. He is going to be getting paid close to nothing for the rest of his life, till he dies. And before he dies, when he is no longer able to do manual labor, he is going to be neglected by his family as a burden. So that is the fate of a 6 year old child who is forced to work in the rice field and not go to school.


Another child who gets the opportunity to go to school (but fails) will likely be given a job in a phone booth or in a store taking inventory, and will have a slim chance to improve his situation in life.


A child who does better and finishes up to 10th grade has a slim chance to go to college and get a real job where he can escape the cycle of poverty.


There is also something called literacy. A child who starts working in the rice fields at 6 years old is 100% going to be illiterate throughout his life. Do you have any idea how bad it is to be illiterate? Do you know what type of jobs you can get if you are illiterate? And do you know how police will exploit you if you are illiterate?


Basically you are cursing these children to hell by suggesting that they should not get an education and instead they should be working in a rice field.


Someone else will complain why we gave them clothes, "They were probably happier in their natural state walking around naked or in rags". And someone else will complain why we gave them blankets. "You shouldn't cushion them from the realities of nature such as cold. You should leave them to explore their God given facilities without blankets." Such people need to get an education or some real experience and stop philosophizing in their lazy-boy recliners. Trust me, these children know what makes them happier, and I will take their word over yours any day of my life.

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Please forgive me if this seems offensive to anyone, and I'm not trying to minimize the plight of the little ones, but they remind me of the Goswamis of Vrindavan.


Surely these little ones are fortunate to have encountered the love of this ashram where Lord Caitanya's glories manifest in this dark world.

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More than the toys, I think that the kirtans that these devotees do with the children fill them up with more happiness.

Imagine what their day is like everyday and the sorrow and frustration that comes from it. Toys can make them happy somewhat but I can just imagine the faces of the smiling and ecstatic children when they come in for the kirtans.


Thanks Jahnava Nitai prabhu and all the devotees with you who are making these children happy- a feeling they had hardly experienced before and will keep with them for the rest of their lives.


Hare Krishna and Jai Nitai


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Thank you for getting toys to these children! Its great to help them be kids, as it only happens once in a persons life.

When I first read this post/newsletter, in my mind I thought "Some devotee is going to say this is maya." Well, it didn't happen quite that way, and I also realize it has been explained. It just is something I've heard for so long, and now a grandmother, if anyone were to try to take toys away from my grandchildren & tell them to get to work, well they'd have me to deal with. haha


I do tho, see a question in it all, about how it can 'also' be fun to play with stones, leaves, sticks, use the imagination. Its why I "also" made sure my kids had some of that while growing up. But they had toys from the store too. And labor? Kids should not be overworked. That's why in America there are always against it, cuz its wrong. But should they never do chores? It builds character to help out around the house, plus they feel they are included. Now, the children you have given toys and fun to are not simply helping out around the house, they are impoverished, probably the family is forced to somewhat depend on the income the child brings in, etc.




IMHO its about balance.


Living in luxuary as we are in the west (even during times of recession we have more than these kids and their parents!), is also not balanced. There often are kids with too many toys and don't apprecaite them. But as somene who likes Dr Phil :) I'd have to say "Who bought them too many toys? They can't buy them for themselves, unless the parent helps or lets them do that too." Anyway, my point is, balance. We have too much, which in turn may cause someone to think what these kids are living is a healthy lifestyle of nature and responsibiltiy or not getting spoiled; whereas they have too little and need some play time, "things" cuz those who grow up with no things can lead depressed adult lives, or actually become materialistic! You did a great thing by giving them toys, it will help them to remember Krishna is kind, so in trun they will be more and more drawn to Him, instead of bitter cuz they did not have a childhood, like so many of our own Gurukulis. Thank you!


[Afterthought: Maybe some in the west with too many toys can send them to the children who need them. :) Volantarily of course.]

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