toy car made from an old milk carton

Sometimes we need a little reminder of how fortunate we all are. If you are reading this post and have enough money to buy your kids new toys this Christmas, now is a good time to consider your good fortune and count your blessings. In Lilongwe, Malawi, children have no toys to play with, so the crafty little buggers make their own toys from old milk cartoons, cigarette containers, cornhusks, and whatever other trash they can find lying around.

It just goes to show how naturally creative all kids are, and how important play is to children. All kids need  toys, and even the most impoverished kids will find things to play with from whatever they can find. Our friend Avik Maitra is working in Lilongwe, Malawi right now with these kids, and was inspired by their creativity to try to come up with some equally creative and eco-friendly ways of making toys for poor kids in this area. If you want to help him help find toys for more poor Malawi kids, read on!

Avik Maitra, junk toys, Kids Making Toys out of scrap material, Lilongwe Malawi, Malawi kids toys, old scrap toys, recycled material toysSoccer ball made from plastic bags and rubber bands

Avik Maitra, Lilongwe Malawi, Kids Making Toys out of scrap material, recycled material toys, old scrap toys, junk toys, Malawi kids toys

Calling all junk! We want yours this holiday season!

Industrial leftovers, factory byproducts, misprints and waste — your trash can be a poor kid’s treasure. If you’ve got the privilege to be reading Inhabitat and to even consider your ecological impact, you’ve got plenty to be thankful for. Many kids in Malawi this year can also be thankful for Avik Maitra, but they need your junk to make new toys. Avik, a recent Masters in Architecture graduate from Colombia University recently begun an 8-month research fellowship in the small town of Lilongwe, Malawi. Spending time in orphanages, Avik has started a project to make toys for these kids from recycled materials.

Avik has been spending time in local orphanages, researching their design and functionality, addressing architectural needs, developing a girls academy, and designing new toys for the orphanage. He’s calling on businesses and factories in Malawi or other nearby areas to donate leftover or waste material for architectural projects as well as for the development of toys.

Avik Maitra, Lilongwe Malawi, Kids Making Toys out of scrap material, recycled material toys, old scrap toys, junk toys, Malawi kids toys

A working list of Avik’s requirements for the toys he develops includes those that are cool, cute, forward-looking, fun, engaging, imaginative, free to village children, and made from local and natural resources by the children. Avik has been visiting local factories in search of materials with little luck so far. Despite getting a brand new orphanage in 2006, the building has nearly no furniture or toys, and those they do have are dilapidated, dirty or dangerous.


Avik has been given this opportunity to help the orphans of Malawi thanks to a generous endowment from UC Berkeley Professor Ray Lifchez and Columbia’s Percival and Naomi Goodman Fellowship. As the holiday season approaches it’s a time to be grateful for what you’ve been given, but also take time to make someone else grateful. Donate your industrial leftovers to Avik and the children of Malawi, support a life changing fellowship, plant a tree, bake a pie for your trash collector, or knit some booties for a baby in need. Whatever you do this Holiday season be creative, be grateful, and be giving.

+ Avik Maitra & Radecology

All photos by Avik Maitra