I am in the process of trying to initiate a Community Toy Library for the service families and dependant personnel within the British Forces JSSU Service Community at Ayios Nikolaos, Cyprus.
I arrived at JSSU Cyprus in the Summer of 2018, with then a 3 month old daughter, I can first hand vouch for how isolating and overwhelming it can feel relocating a family overseas. There are such long lead times in between departing your home in the UK with just you airline baggage allowance, to your household possessions arriving in Cyprus (circa 6 weeks). And this again when you leave island at the end of your tour.
A child’s right to play is enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child, highlighting its place as a fundamental human need, the act of play positively affecting childrens’ development, health and wellbeing.
Familiar playthings can help children adapt to their changing circumstances. For children arriving in Cyprus, the absence of a home that they know, friends and family, and of course their belongings for a time, can be overwhelming and disconcerting; having use of a toy library therefore may mitigate some of these feelings for them, and in turn for their families of course.
Whilst it is of course possible, and even desirable for children to play without toys, playing with toys and games helps children of all ages build relationships, be creative, use language, think and solve problems, and use small and large muscles. It also helps children learn important mathematical, literacy and scientific skills, albeit through play.
However, this period of living with minimal home comforts, serving away from home in a foreign country without family or friends to call upon to help out with childcare or loan of home comforts to make childcare easier. A Community Toy Library whilst aimed at bettering the lives of our children in turbulent times, would also ease a considerable strain upon their caregivers.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic made this wait for household possessions children's entertainment items, all the more uncomfortable for new arrivals, without play parks open and the normal community groups running or the chance of meeting new acquaintances on the school runs, newly assigned in personnel were left feeling incredibly isolated far from home without the usual strappings of community support.
The aspiration behind the community toy library initiative is to provide a service for the Ay Nik community that aims to put accessible, sustainable, play for all at its core. In providing an additional welfare provision available to dependents and members of the JSSU community, the community toy library aims to offer the temporary loan of toys and childcare items to parents and caregivers, it is designed to ease the burden of having minimal family support available overseas.
How will your donation help?
As a Not For Profit community project, in order for the initiative to be a real success the library needs to offer a service that will be considered valuable to those it aims to support. I am building the entire project from donations of toys gifted from personnel within the community it aims to support and from the toys my own children have out grown.
I am desperately in need of procuring critical support items such as shelving and storage solutions, antibacterial cleaning supplies, batteries and consumables to keep the inventory serviceable.
If the crowdfunding is a success I hope to look to add new, sustainable and durable toys to the inventory and the ultimate goal is to purchase an inventory management platform and accessories to enable the smooth running of an efficient, real time customer orientated service.
I understand some personnel are very sceptical about where donated money ends up, but I can assure anyone considering supporting this initiative, every single penny raised will go immediately back into the project.
I would also graciously accept donations of any unwanted, outgrown and unloved toys and games.
Anyone wanting any further information can email me at [email protected] and I will gladly answer any questions you may have.