Banking on toys

Banking on toys

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may tse
Cynthia Pao (centre) spends time with Yeung Yi-han (Left) and Chak Ho-king at the Toy Bank at the YMCA in Tung Chung. Photo: May Tse

A programme for underprivileged children is bringing some unexpected benefits, writes Wong Yat-hei

Adults may think that playing with toys distracts youngsters from their studies, but the Toy Bank at the YMCA at Hong Kong Tung Chung Centre shows how toys can be an inspiration for children to do well at school and encourage good behaviour.

The original aim of the Toy Bank, launched in March last year, was to provide toys for young people from underprivileged families, but parents soon found there was more to it than meets the eye.

'Parents are able to use the toy bank as an inspiration for children to change bad habits,' says Cynthia Pao, senior programme officer of the Centre. 'Members of the Toy Bank are allowed to come to take a toy once a month. For many of the children, it is the biggest day of the month. Many parents say their children have become more disciplined after joining the Toy Bank because if they don't behave, their parents will not take them.'

But the Toy Bank also uses positive measures to encourage good behaviour.

'Every time parents come with their children, they are asked to write down what their children need to work on in the coming month,' says Pao. 'It can be anything from waking up on time for school to eating vegetables. This helps children understand that to get what they want, they have to perform up to standard.'

Seven-year-old Chak Ho-king's mother has been taking him to the Toy Bank for more than a year, and she loves it. 'The Toy Bank helps my son grow. It has taught him to never take things for granted,' she says.

'He has to work hard to get rewards. If he wants to come and get a toy, he has to achieve a goal. He used to go to bed late and wake up late. I told him he had to change this habit if he wanted to go to the Toy Bank and it worked out well - in less than a month, he corrected his bad habit.'

Six-year-old Yeung Yi-han is also a regular visitor to the Toy Bank. Her mother says it also has other benefits. "I've made a lot of new friends here. It's an opportunity for parents to meet."

The Toy Bank serves 150 families and 270 children in the Tung Chung area. Another is set to open next month in Cheung Sha Wan for families in Kowloon.

Most toys are donated by toy manufacturers. Public donations are welcome as long as the toys are in good condition and safe.

There are two collection points - the YMCA in Tsim Sha Tsui (tel: 2268 7050) and the YMCA in Tung Chung (tel: 2988 1246).

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