Cases 13:23 13 Nov 2023

“A toy will not solve all problems, but it will bring joy”: how an initiative that gives toys a second chance and supports children works

The Circle of Toys project was initiated in Ukraine to allow children from around the globe to exchange their toys while experiencing joy and kindness. Its purpose is to give previously cherished but now unwanted toys a new home with younger recipients. This initiative also helps children develop empathy and promotes environmental responsibility. Rubryka shares the details of how this program functions.

What is the problem?

Almost 5 million Ukrainians are internally displaced persons. As a result of the Russian aggression, numerous Ukrainian families were left homeless and had to struggle to make ends meet, barely able to afford basic essentials. With such limited resources, children's toys become a luxury that cannot be afforded. After all, when one's budget is solely dedicated to covering housing and food expenses, who has time to think about leisure activities?

What is the solution?

The Find Refuge social network launched the Circle of Toys children's project. The project's goal is simple but very meaningful — to connect people who have used toys in good condition (or can buy new ones) with children who, unfortunately, can only dream about them now.

How does it work?

Children's dreams are simple; they can and should come true

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The Find Refuge support network was formed through the collaboration of Project Ukraine, a joint Ukrainian-British program in the IT industry. The project, launched before the full-scale war, aimed to bring Ukrainian IT experts to work on innovative projects and establish a Ukrainian version of Silicon Valley. Following February 2022, Project Ukraine introduced new initiatives in response to the challenges caused by Russia's aggression towards Ukraine.

One example is the platform Find Refuge, which links people in need with those who can assist. Through this platform, volunteers and organizations come together to address the challenges faced by individuals facing difficult circumstances, mainly due to war. Users can access consultations, guidance, and assistance on various issues, such as healthcare, employment, housing, and starting a business in a different country.

"Over the summer, we started receiving numerous requests for humanitarian kits. People inquired about the most essential household items, such as food, medicine, and hygiene products," explains Daryna Chepynoha, the development director of Find Refuge. "Many of these individuals are parents with children. Naturally, toys are not at the forefront of their minds in such dire circumstances. When they are struggling to budget for necessities like housing and food, toys are not a top priority. As a mother, I understand how difficult it is for other parents when you cannot provide your child with a happy and carefree childhood. That's how the idea of the project for children — Circle of Toys — arose."

Psychologist volunteers of the Find Refuge platform confirmed that play is not just entertainment for children. Instead, it is considered the primary form of activity that aids in developing cognitive functions and molds their personalities. Toys serve as a tool for improving fine motor skills, relieving psycho-emotional stress, acquiring household skills, and developing memory, thinking, imagination, attention, and language comprehension. This is not just a whim but an important element of human development.

"But even if the toys were just a simple children's wish, isn't it good to show children that dreams can and should come true? I hope that the world can be safe and that there are good people in it who are ready to help and support. Of course, a toy will not solve all problems, but it is a great opportunity to give a child joy and faith in miracles," Daryna Chepynoha adds.

Everyone can join

дитячий проєкт Circle of Toys

Screenshot from the website of the Circle of Toys project

Children grow up so fast. Today's favorite toy becomes useless tomorrow. Meanwhile, another child dreams of just such a toy somewhere in the world.

At Find Refuge, it is strongly believed that doing good is crucial. This is how the world can be improved by bringing individuals together profoundly. An example is also set for future generations, instilling empathy within them. Sharing toys equates to performing acts of kindness and educating children to show compassion towards others.

"It's easy to help. Much easier than it seems. You can spend only a couple of hundred hryvnias and buy a new toy, or share what you already have, but in good condition. A few days will pass, and you probably won't even notice the money spent on the purchase and/or delivery. But just imagine how this act of yours can fundamentally change someone's life," Daryna Chepynoha says.

How to become a giver

To help someone in need, you can easily send a toy by following these simple steps: first, register as a donor by clicking the link. This is how the process will unfold:

Step 1: Sign up

Select the "Share toy" option. You will then be directed to the Find Refuge parent project page on the platform.

Step 2. Completing the questionnaire

Complete the questionnaire. It won't take long.

Step 3. Check requests

Once registered, every giver can access a page displaying all the relevant requests. You can organize them based on their type and use keywords in the search function. Select one (or more) that you are willing to fulfill. Once approved, you will receive the recipient's address for toy delivery.

Step 4. Sending the toy

After agreeing on all the details, send the toy. Make sure you pay for shipping because the person who requested the toy may not have the funds to pay for it.

To be approved and receive the recipient's address, you must provide a photo of the toy you wish to send. Whether a brand-new or used toy, it should be in good condition. If the toy is only dirty but otherwise intact and functional, please clean it before shipping. Please do not send toys that are broken, torn, or unable to be fixed. After all, receiving a beloved toy in a damaged state would be disappointing.

How to become a seeker and get a toy

Seekers are people who need help and care. In particular, parents or legal guardians who want to apply for a toy for their child or children. Applications can be submitted through this platform.

Step 1: Register

Click the "Get a toy" button. The platform automatically takes you to the Find Refuge parent project page.

Step 2. Completing the application

Complete the application by providing the child's age and interests and your location in terms of country and city.

Step 3: Application review

Be patient and wait for the donor to reply to your application.

Step 4. Delivery

The giver will ship the toy to the address you provided when registering. Please ensure that the zip code and phone number are entered correctly.

Step 5. Once you receive the package, remember to express your gratitude.

You may also choose to post a response on the project's Facebook page or share a photo as a thank you.

Does it really work?

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The Circle of Toys initiative was launched on November 9, and within the first 24 hours, it received 3,000 applications. By the next day, the number had already surpassed 4,000. According to Daryna Chepynoha, the development director at Find Refuge, the requests are quite simple. Some people ask for blocks, others for toy cars or puzzles, and some request rattles. These requests are open to anyone and include items like books and electronics.

"There are a multitude of incredible requests. One that stayed with me was from a young mother who was under 30 years old. She had three children, aged 6, 4, and 1.5 years old. They were from Kupiansk, and currently, the mother is not employed, and her husband, who serves in the military, has been missing for a month. The woman simply requested educational toys for her youngest child – nothing more," Daryna Chepynoha shares. "Reading through all these requests made me realize how petty and trivial some of our daily struggles can seem. Of course, all problems are important, even the smaller ones, and none should be belittled. However, it is heart-wrenching to read such stories."

On the day after the launch, 400 additional donors also became part of the project.

"Just yesterday, one of our users submitted a request for a plush shark for their daughter. Thanks to our platform, we were able to find a generous giver who happens to have the shark, and it is now on its way to the recipient," Daryna Chepynoha says. "I want to mention that givers can come from not just Ukraine but other countries as well. Most of our donors are from Ukraine, but we also see donors from Poland, Germany, Austria, and Great Britain. We are actively working on expanding our donor pool to include those from the USA."

Even more helpful solutions!

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The toy industry is the biggest contributor to plastic use globally, with 90% of all toys made from it. Yale University reports that about 80% of toys are thrown away yearly, leading to environmental pollution.

Plastic does not biodegrade in the environment; instead, it breaks down into microplastics, which pollute the land and oceans. These microplastics can remain in landfills for years, contaminating the air and groundwater. Even sea salt contains microscopic fragments of plastic! We inadvertently consume these particles through food and inhale them through dust.

Sharing toys means taking care of our health and the future of our planet.

Can you assist with more than just toys? Sign up for the Find Refuge platform and join our team of volunteers. Your involvement can help make this world a kinder and better place.


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