This week across India various events will be held to encourage giving to those in need by a variety of NGOs during the Joy of Giving week ( In Bhopal two friend-NGOs, Spaandan and Aham Bhumika, are organizing an event called Vastrasamman, or “dignifying clothing” . Its a drive to encourage and stimulate giving – not neccessarily monetarily, but mostly in used clothes, games, toys, furniture, etc. These goods will be redistributed by volunteers and NGOs across the state to people who would really value these items.

RMF is offering up our new office in Bhopal as a collection center for the drive (good thing we don’t have much furniture yet!). We’re also coordinating with the government offices, shops, and restaurants we frequent to become collection points. This is a great opportunity to get the urban community involved in efforts to improve the nutritional status of their rural neighbors. The toys and games we collect in this drive will go to anganwadi centers (village health centers) we work with to make them “child friendly.” The toys discarded by many urban kids that are still in almost new condition can make a huge difference in improving the nutritional status of children in rural areas.

Children who attend anganwadi centers regularly and spend the maximum amount of time there often have better nutrition outcomes than children who never come at all. This is in part because they obtain a supplementary meal there but also because if they spend enough time at the center, the anganwadi worker will eventually have enough time to notice a malnourished child, take his height and weight, and talk to his mother (in theory). If the child is in and out of the center in minutes along with dozens of other kids, this doesn’t give the worker enough time to do her job (let alone start with preschool education). You can’t blame mothers for not sending her children the the anganwadi center for longer. They’re often a plain room with no windows, stuffy, with nothing to keep a child under 6 entertained. I wouldn’t want to hang out there or send my kids there.

Who wants to hang out here?

But imagine if the anganwadi center was bright and colorful and full of stimulating posters, toys for kids to play with, educating games, and a cheer that would entice mothers to bring their kids and for kids to ask their mothers to go. In these “child-friendly” anganwadi centers, mothers are more likely to bring their kids, who are more likely going to want to stay, where they will be more likely to learn, and the anganwadi worker will be more likely to assess their height and weight.

A child friendly anganwadi started by Spandaan

I’ve seen examples of child-friendly anganwadi centers set up by the Spandan Organization in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh. They started with donated toys, stuffed animals, posters, and games and then got the people from the village to donate paints and building materials from their homes. The whole village got involved in making the anganwadi center cheerful and child friendly, adding a covered area outside the main room where kids could sit outdoors and painting the place with colorful decorations. The anganwadi center was transformed into a place only the poorest people go to when they’re sick (and often didn’t get care) to a community location centered around maternal and child health. At Spandan’s three child friendly anganwadis nutrition outcomes are noticably better than the neighboring centers.

I would encourage everyone in Bhopal to support this effort! Clean out the clutter from your homes and transform an anganwadi center! If you’re not in Bhopal, I still encourage you to give to other organizations who do similar type of drives such as the Salvation Army in the US ( and Goonj in most Indian metros (

Thank you to Spandan and Ahah Bhumika for organizing this!

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