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.
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.
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.