By Mikaela Capati

“How does it feel like to be a kid again?” — Primarily the question being asked in every engagement, the Philippine Toy Library volunteers, or collectively known as Tropang PTL, answer this question simply: “To feel like a kid, you must be one.”

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Mikee (wearing white PTL shirt) with the kids of Javier Central Elementary School

For the kids in our partner communities, being one is a luxury. At an early age, these kids are exposed to poverty and labor, limiting them from becoming a real kid  — a kid entitled to play, without worries…a kid who is just a kid.

The Philippine Toy Library provides avenues for kids to enjoy the wonderful world of play. Engagements traverse the different islands of the country to provide opportunities for kids to express themselves through toys and stories. Just a shot at being happy, ecstatic, rowdy and euphoric, that is what PTL hopes for these kids.

I, together with Jesha and Jessie (PTL volunteers), eagerly flew to Eastern Visayas for a two-day storytelling and free play activity for the kids of Javier, Leyte and Basey, Samar. With the help of local partners, AKMA-Resbak and SSEAYP, the organizers wore their respective kids hat in the hope of giving the kids an event to remember.

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At Basey I, Mikee tells the story of Popong who hates to take a bath.

The kids of Basey I Central Elementary School started off with a fiesta of colorful music and twirling batons as they welcomed the visitors from the different organizations. As the kids from Basey entered the newly-inaugurated toy library, sparks were seen flying from their eyes as they ran towards the different toys and books ready for their company. The kids were given time to run around and play freely in their new library.

The kids of Javier Central Elementary School also greeted the organizers with big smiles and eager hands. Kids ages 4-8 gathered around the carpeted mat and silently waited for the go signal to play to their heart’s content. Toys and books from different donors have filled not just the toy libraries of both Javier and Basey, but more importantly the hearts of the kids from our partner communities.

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One of the teachers of Basey I Elementary School applying the storytelling techniques she learned from the workshop.

Enhancing room for creativity was also one of the goals of PTL for this engagement. The kids participated in an arts and crafts module where their skills to draw, color and imagine were showcased. As seen in the arts and crafts activity for the kids, the sea of colors from their rainbow clouds looked as bright as the smiles gleaming from their faces.

The kids of Basey and Javier were told a story about a kid named Popong, who resented taking a bath and just wanted to play all day long. It may seem like a normal children’s story with a valuable lesson at the end, but what made it so special was the manner of delivery and the processing that PTL ensured to teach the partner communities. A workshop facilitated by Jesha taught the community organizers to internalize and engage themselves, immerse their hearts and minds, without anything to hinder true expression, in telling stories and their purpose. Committing themselves, through their facial expressions and vocal impersonations, were just few of the non-negotiables in storytelling the PTL way. In this way, it would be possible to let the children understand there there is more value to the story than what is written on the paper.

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Jessie (left, wearing white) and Ate Dang (right, wearing white) together with the kids holding their rainbow masterpiece.

To let the volunteers and the kids be immersed in the stories and activities is the main goal of each PTL session — not just tell the story to a kid, not just teach them different modules, but to remind themselves of the stories of one kid, and later on realize that they, too, have their own stories to share. With every ounce of commitment poured in every engagement, PTL only seeks to have a burning heart and compassion to let the kids be kids again, despite any condition.

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PTL volunteers Jessie and Mikee, together with the AKMA-Resbak and SSYEAP group, and toy donors from Singapore, posing with the kids before they do their free play.

Mikaela Capati, or Mikee as her friends call her, is one of the first members of Tropang PTL. She is a young professional working at a private corporation. Previously a government worker, Mikee makes it a point to keep herself involved in development work, thus, committing her weekends to Philippine Toy Library.

Tropang PTL is the official volunteer arm of Philippine Toy Library, a non-profit organization that aims to bring happiness to the children through play. Aside from giving a structured play module to the kids, Tropang PTL also gives a 3-to-4 hour Guardians On Training (G.O.T.) for the teachers, parents and local volunteers of the community, teaching them how to manage play, how to do storytelling and arts & crafts activities for the kids. Help us to bring Tropang PTL in our Toy Libraries all over the Philippines! E-mail us on info@toylibraryph.com to find out how.

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